Black Prince

The Black Prince wet fly is an old pattern. It is shown on the Lake Flies in Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury. It is also in Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman. It was a popular pattern and has appeared in other publications as well. The Orvis version has a body made entirely of flat gold tinsel, while the later version in Trout sports a black floss body with a gold tinsel ribbing. Both have red tails, the version in Marbury’s book also has a jungle cock cheek. Hackle and wings on both versions are black, with natural black hackle being used on the original plate fly. I have a photo of that and recognized it as natural black; more of a dark charcoal color.

The reason I am inspired to post this article is that I recently completed an order of four dozen Black Prince wet flies, for a customer for fishing. She wanted them in sizes #12, #14, #16, and #18. The surprising part, not to me, but likely to many of you, is that my customer recently fished Pennsylvania’s famed and reportedly difficult to fish, at times anyway, Penn’s Creek. This is a stream where no stocking is done in a large section of Special Regulation water. The fish are almost all wild, stream-bred brown trout. I received her e-mail message today, as follows:

“ALL HAIL THE BLACK PRINCE!!! A short time ago I had a great afternoon on Penn’s Creek above Coburn with the Black Prince.  I would lay odds that is a fly that has not been seen around here in 50 years!!  And neither have the trout.”
My customer did not specify the size(s) she used, nor did she indicate how they were fished, but it’s a sure bet the flies were simply swung down-and-across. The hooks I used to supply her fishing fly order were modern hooks; I used Tiemco wet fly hooks – #3769. I prefer vintage and antique hooks for display and collector flies; and contemporary, high-carbon steel, mini-barb, chemically sharpened points to get the job done if the flies will be getting wet. Modern hooks are unquestionably better for fishing.
Here is a photo of the version of the Black Prince from Trout:
Black Prince - classic wet fly. The hook size is #6,Mustad vintage style No. 3399.

Black Prince – classic wet fly. The hook size is #6, Mustad vintage style No. 3399. The hackle on this fly was applied after setting the wing, using an old-fashioned technique. This method combines the winged wet with the effectiveness of a soft-hackle.

Black Prince

Thread: Danville Black Flymaster 6/0

Hook: Standard wet fly hook, sizes #2 to #18 – large hooks, full hackle to replicate Lake Fly style.

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Scarlet hackle fibers of a section of red duck quill – may be two matching slips paired, or a single slip of duck or goose wing quill, as was done almost exclusively in the 1800’s

Ribbing: Narrow gold tinsel

Body: Black floss

Wing: Black duck or goose wing quill, matched and paired; may also be natural crow

Hackle: Black

It is the tiers discretion to apply the hackle as a false or beard style hackle, or as a soft-hackle collar, which may be wound either before or after placing the wing.

If one desired to replicate the Orvis version of the Black Prince, use fine flat gold tinsel for the tag, make the body from medium flat gold tinsel, use a scarlet dyed quill section for the tail – traditionally in the 1800’s, scarlet ibis feathers were used for this – and add a jungle cock cheek.

Like so many classic wet flies, trout do not see them, and one ace-in-the-hole trick you can tuck up your sleeve is to hit the water with something different than what everyone else is fishing. How about the Black Prince?

Next on my customers custom order – the Grackle, another old classic pattern.

Classic Wet Fly Display – 483 Flies

Last Saturday I returned to Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge Restaurant in Rockville, Maryland, with my girlfriend, Mary Fortin. I wanted to show her the ten-frame set of classic wet flies that the owners purchased from me at the Fly Fishing Show in College Park, Maryland, in January of 2002. Tower Oaks opened in the fall of that year. We also coordinated our trip to visit a dear friend who is having health problems.

Since it has been twelve years since this collection of framed flies was placed on display, and considering that the last time I was there was in 2005, I was curious to see how they are holding up. From time to time I have friends and customers tell me they have seen the display, and they always have complimentary remarks. The wet fly collection from Ray Bergman’s book, Trout, was something I vowed I was one day going to do. This was back in 1974, and resulted when I tied my first-ever Parmacheene Belle, and mounted it in a frame for my dad’s birthday. I made this commitment to myself: “Someday I’m going to tie and frame all those flies.” That goal was a dream come true; first in replicating the entire collection of color plate wet flies for the book, Forgotten Flies, 2000, and then for Clyde’s Restaurant Group. Subsequently I have replicated this entire set two additional times for private collectors. The display at Tower Oaks is, as far as I know, the only location in the entire United States where the wet fly color plates from Ray Bergman’s 1938 book, Trout, have been reproduced and are on permanent display. Trout is the only fishing book ever written to remain continuously in print for more than fifty years, and is the most-published in that genre as well, having sold more than 250,000 copies in all its volumes and editions.

There are ten frames in the set; all flies are reproduced exactly in the order and number of the artist’s rendition, and according to the pattern recipes listed in the back of the book. The paintings were done by Dr. Edgar Burke, a close friend of Ray Bergman.

An accurate and historically correct reproduction of Henry P. Wells famous Parmacheene Belle. He originated the fly in 1876, naming it after Lake Parmacheene in Maine's Rangeley Lakes Region. This dressing is given by Wells in the 1883 book, Fishing With the Fly by Charles F. Orvis and A. Nelson Cheney.

An accurate and historically correct reproduction of Henry P. Wells famous Parmacheene Belle. He originated the fly in 1876, naming it after Lake Parmacheene in Maine’s Rangeley Lakes Region. This dressing is given by Wells in the 1883 book, Fishing With the Fly by Charles F. Orvis and A. Nelson Cheney.

The Parmacheene Belle above was tied in traditional blind eye style, with a snelled double leader; a “bite-guard,” doubled at the head, as they were sometimes called. The wings are also tied in traditional reversed style. You can see the but ends of the wings which were tied in facing forward, then pulled back over. This makes for a garish-looking and large head, but it served its purpose in the durability department. The original body is yellow mohair, the original tag is peacock herl. This fly is dressed exactly to the originators specifications. It is curious that the Orvis / Marbury version of this fly was changed to a wing of half red and white, using ostrich herl for the butt. Various pattern component alterations have transpired over the decades, but this dressing is the correct one as put forth by the creator of the pattern. I digressed a bit to add some background on the interest of classic wet flies and their history.

In examining the frames, I noticed that as a result of routine cleaning, the finish is beginning to wear on the frames, especially along the top edge. The corners of the frames and the edges are showing a nice aura of natural aging, taking on an antique appearance, giving them a natural patina that matches more appropriately compared to the age of the flies contained within. Neither Mary nor I had a camera along, so there will be no actual photos. Not this time. But we plan to go back.

Below are a series of wet flies that are framed, using my original method of wire-mounting the flies to the mat board. It is virtually invisible in the display and my frames, making the flies appear suspended and uncluttered by pins, wire, cork pegs, and certainly no cement of any kind is used.

Hopatcong - #6. This pattern was mentioned in Mary Orvis Marbury's book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, so it is well over one-hundred years old. She indicated that she would like to have included it among the Lake Flies.

Hopatcong – #6. This pattern was mentioned in Mary Orvis Marbury’s book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, so it is well over one-hundred years old. She indicated that she would like to have included it among the Lake Flies.

Pope - #6.

Pope – #6.

Logan - #6; another old pattern.

Logan – #6; another old pattern.

Romeyn - #6. Illustrated in Marbury's book, and also included as a Lake Fly in the 1893 Orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont.

Romeyn – #6. Illustrated in Marbury’s book, and also included as a Lake Fly in the 1893 Orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont.

Victoria - #6; the green variation. There is also a Victoria with a dark blue body.

Victoria – #6; the green variation. There is also a Victoria with a dark blue body.

The wire I use to mount the flies...

The wire I use to mount the flies…

...and the view of a Red Hackle Peacock showing the wire mounted to the hook shank. The short 5/8" to 3/4" long section is bent 90 degrees and lashed - tightly - to the shank. It is inserted after the tag, ribbing and floss is attached, while winding forward to the head. It can be bent down to place wings and throats for inch wraps, then stood out to mount. A bobbin is used to make the hole in the mat, then the wire is inserted, the fly positioned just off the surface of the mat board, and then taped down in the back with acid-free archival cloth tape.

…and the view of a Red Hackle Peacock showing the wire mounted to the hook shank. The short 5/8″ to 3/4″ long section is bent 90 degrees and lashed – tightly – to the shank. It is inserted after the tag, ribbing and floss is attached, while winding forward to the head. It can be bent down to place wings and throats for inch wraps, then stood out to mount. A bobbin is used to make the hole in the mat, then the wire is inserted, the fly positioned just off the surface of the mat board, and then taped down in the back with acid-free archival cloth tape.

Mounting area of Plate No. 3 from Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman.

Display area of frame; Plate No. 3, Wet Flies, from Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman. This photo is from the third set of these flies that I completed. These are available for purchase on MyFlies.com, or by contacting me personally. Available as a complete set or as individual Color Plate reproductions, and also, custom selected patterns are available.

Here is the MyFlies.com link where images of all ten frames can be viewed.

http://www.myflies.com/Ray-Bergmans-emTroutem-Wet-Fly-Series–P592.aspx

Here is the link to Tower Oaks Lodge: http://www.clydes.com/tower

If you are ever in the metro Washington, DC, area or traveling in central Maryland, this place is worth a visit. The website presents information on the decor, which is exclusive. It is like a museum – the Adirondack Lodge area with the fishing displays,art, and artifacts; the Chesapeake Bay duck hunting section with antique decoys, boats, boats, and more boats, decoy baskets, full of original duck and goose decoys, and at least ten double-barrel shotguns; and the “Horses and Hounds” section, devoted to the racing and fox hunting traditions of estates in Hunt Valley Maryland. And the food, service, and ambiance is excellent. Five Stars!

Carrie Stevens and Rangeley Style Streamers

Don Bastian:

I have received several requests for information on the hackle / throat method on Carrie Stevens Rangeley Style streamer patterns that I have been using for over two years. While I have adapted my application of the throat fibers using a bobbin, compared to Mrs. Stevens tying “in-hand” this method and placement of the throat is basically the same method created by Carrie Stevens and gives the flies the style, appearance, and correct method of dressing her unique Rangeley Style streamers, if one desires to be historically correct in tying Carrie Stevens streamers with the accuracy of her original designs. Photographic instructions of this process are in the Carrie Stevens book by Graydon and Leslie Hilyard.

Originally posted on Don Bastian Wet Flies:

Those of us who tie streamers, and that’s probably most fly tiers unless one is a dry fly purist – I know at least one of those, and he casts only to rising trout, have heard the phrase Rangeley Style streamers. Just what does that mean? I believe Carrie Stevens of Upper Dam, Maine, with her unique, self-taught method of tying streamers, is the originator of this style, and she alone is to be credited with creating the Rangeley style streamer. I have recently come under the conviction that to tie Rangeley style streamers means to tie streamers employing Carrie Stevens’s methods. I’m not referring to merely tying her patterns and cementing the wings, which I began doing a year-and-a-half ago. Learning more about her material placement this summer was for me, the last part of the journey toward my ultimate arrival at fully utilizing her methods of material placement…

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Barramundi

I have been very busy tying – still – playing in the band, enjoying summer despite very little fishing. And I am still backed up on my fly orders. Just about when I seem to close in on getting caught up, I get a slew of new orders and I’m right behind schedule again. Perhaps being behind on my orders is the new norm.

I did recently send in the reservation form for the International Fly Tying Symposium in New Jersey in November, looking ahead to that. Be here before you know it. I’m still trying to get caught up on some older tying projects as well.

It has been interesting over these years; all the fly tying I have done, the various types and style of flies I have produced. Recently I received an unusual request, and it all came about in a very interesting and fascinating way. A man from Australia posted a comment on the topic about The Angler’s Nook and The Liar’s Bench, the shop on the Battenkill River in New York. Seems the man from Australia hosted an American soldier serving in Viet Nam in 1970, for a little R & R trout fishing time in Australia. This particular soldier turned out to be none other than Richard Entwhistle, son of the owner of The Angler’s Nook. My Aussie friend, Kevin Laughton, sent me a pic of Richard sitting at his kitchen table in 1970, with a mess of trout. And that’s only part of that story. I don’t know how many of you have followed that topic and comment thread, but there have been several folks over the past year who found that post, commented, and have provided a wealth of additional information.

The same thing has happened on my Carson Lake Special Wet Fly topic; feel free to check that out, and read through the thirty-eight comments it has generated. Lots of fascinating information has come forth on that fly, history, originator, and I even received a photo of a penciled drawing on the fly and instructions on how to tie it. Must be at least fifty years old.

Now to the title of this post: Barramundi!

Kevin Laughton has requested me to tie him a couple large flies for these big fish. They live in some lakes in Australia, Queensland, near the Tropic of Capricorn, so the weather is hot at times. These are big predatory fish, and I get to make up a couple “predator flies” – see there, even an old classic fly tier can get in on the new trends, ;-) for him to try out in October. Below is a photo of Kevin with a 40 lb. Barramundi.

40 lb. Barramundi, caught in Lake Awonga, Queensland, Australia, by Kevin Laughton.

40 lb. Barramundi, caught in Lake Awonga, Queensland, Australia, by Kevin Laughton, holding the trophy. I’ll get to try my hand at creating a couple large, original “Predator Flies” for these big fish.

Thanks for the contact, information on Richard Entwhistle, and for the chance to tie Barramundi flies, Kevin! Cheers!

“Dale, We’ve Got to Get Out!”

It has been a while since I have last written here. I’ve done some fishing, but as usual, not enough. Lots of factors are contributing to that: weather – lots of rain, high water, heat and humidity, low water; and my routine of fly tying for stacked-up orders. I am slowly catching up, but I’m still behind. Then there is outdoor work, the grass needs mowed, and other yard work is begging to be finished. My personal life and schedule with friends, the classic rock band I play drums for, and a wonderful new lady-friend relationship are all good. Next week, my daughter and three grandchildren are coming from Connecticut to visit for a week. Despite all that, I decided to pause from my tying today to help a friend, Dale A. Darling, of Drake, Colorado,  by posting this article to present a book he wrote about the devastation he and his family suffered at the hands of Colorado’s horrific 2013 flooding.

His book is titled, High Waters: Colorado’s 2013 Flood. Here is the press release that Dale wrote:

High Waters Colorado’s 2013 Flood presents a compelling personal account of the devastating September 2013 flood that surprised Coloradans and people around the world. Dale A. Darling brings passionate, insightful perspective that he and his wife, Shan, shared with their Drake neighbors during the flood, and with others during their own endeavor to recover following the destruction of their home and belongings.
Chapters include Beginnings, Flood, Evacuation, Returns, Perspective, The River and This Story, and 60 pictures. Specific anecdotes about what it’s actually like to experience a natural disaster will bring the event to life for interested, curious readers.”
“This 208 page book is written and designed to be read, to inveigle imaginations and to serve as an honest report about what is now considered one of Colorado’s harshest natural disasters.”

High Waters

High Waters: Colorado’s 2013 Flood, front cover.

Dale A. Darling is the author of five previous books and numerous magazine and newspaper articles.

A little more personal introduction from Dale: “It’s been several months since I last wrote concerning Shan and I and the flood. Earlier, I mentioned that I was writing a book about the flood, and would like to announce that it is complete! We have copies to sell.”

“Shan and I bought a cabin near Drake, Colorado, in 2001; in 2007 it became our home. When we purchased the property we were told that it was not in the flood plain, that flood insurance was not required. In September 2013 steady rain over several days caused the Big Thompson River to rise, then flood and our home and 99% of what we owned were ruined or swept away.”

High Waters is our story about what’s being called a 500-year flood. Being there is different than reading or hearing news clips, or seeing images shot from a helicopter. My report will put you with Shan and me and our neighbors so you can feel and smell the reality of being there; of the aftermath and what actually happens in spite of the pontificating and selective reports that circulate.”

High Waters Colorado’s 2013 Flood is available for $17.95 at www.riverforkpress.com, at bookstores, or in digital form at amazon.com.
As it stands, our only chance to recover from the flood will depend on book sales. If you’re interested, please visit my publishing web site www.riverforkpress.com
To go directly to the High Waters page, follow this link: http://riverforkpress.com/highwaters.html

The kindle version is available here: http://www.amazon.com/HIGH-WATERS-Colorados-2013-Flood-ebook/dp/B00KO3A5IA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1402595336&sr=1-1&keywords=High+Waters+Colorado%27s+2013+Flood

Dale’s closing words in his book announcement:

“Please share the links to buy the book with friends or groups. We’re discussing the idea of making presentations to interested groups, and trying to find stores or others who will help us sell the book. The printer is ready to print thousands of copies as required!”

I have never met Dale in person, but I’ve come to know him as a fellow fly tier and friend via the internet, and we also had some phone conversations and exchanged some lengthy e-mails back in early 2011. As Dale reached out to me, he helped me when I was going through a very difficult time in my life. I wanted to make this announcement in the hope that some of my readers will buy his book, and also share this information to help spread goodwill and assist Dale and his family getting back on their feet.

Spring Creek – Again

I paid a short visit to Spring Creek last evening. After all I was in the area for something else, and figured while nearby, why not? Turns out my friend Bill Shuck, a regular www.flymphforum.com tier, mentioning to me in an e-mail yesterday about the “cold front” putting the trout and bugs and fishing “off,” was right. There wasn’t much happening.

The high temperature for the day was barely sixty-five degrees, and the sun never even poked its head out, not even for a minute. I thought the sulfurs would be hatching gangbusters and trout would be up everywhere, but only in my dreams. I had driven down to State College to attend a visitation session for Gloria Humphreys, the wife of one of Pennsylvania’s celebrated fly fishing authors, Joe Humphreys. They were professional and personal friends. Gloria passed away on May 20th.

So after paying my respects I drove to Spring Creek, found a spot, geared up, and tied on my usual two-dry-fly tandem rig, a Sulfur Poly-wing Parachute Dun and my Floating “Sulfur” Emerger – which as noted in the article and links from my previous post, started its life in 2006 as a Floating Caddis Emerger. Orvis added it to their fly catalog in 2013, and have continued it for this year as well. http://www.orvis.com/store/product.aspx?pf_id=7R6A[/

I discovered two years ago that the same pattern, augmented for size and dubbing color, also does a “spot-on” mimic for emerging mayflies. At least that is the conclusion I have drawn, after hooking well over one hundred trout on that fly last season and this season, all while fishing the “sulfur” hatch.

I walked downstream to a slower, deeper section of water and watched for rising fish. Nothing was happening, there were no rises. I gave it all of one minute, which on Spring Creek at this time if year and time of day, if they are rising, I would have seen a dozen or more trout up. So I walked upstream, knowing what my next course of action would be, but for confirmation, I said aloud to myself, “If there are no trout rising, I’m going to fish the riffs and pocket water. No sense of fishing a pool with no rises.” Yes, I do talk to myself, sometimes it is the only way I can get expert advice. ;-)

I stepped into this spot:

I entered the water just below this spot, got some line iout, and when I was only about four feet from the bank, started feeding line downstream to a deeper section.

I entered the water just below this spot, got some line out, and when I was only about four feet from the bank, made a cast downstream and started feeding line to a deeper section. A trout rose to the Floating Sulfur Emerger on the first drift, but he missed the fly. I caught one trout in about eight inches of water maybe three feet from shore. When a lot of fishermen are about, they usually scatter the trout from these shallow sections…for a little while at least. Most anglers don’t bother with this water, they are “pool oriented.” Their mistake. The area between the two rocks, not twenty-five feet away, produced two hookups and three additional rises.

Next I worked my way up to the area in the above photo, standing in water about a foot deep, and by this time I had not moved more than fifteen feet from the bank. I blindly cast about to the pockets, seams, and into the riffles, relying on experience as to where might be a good spot for a trout to be. None of this water was more than a foot or so in depth. Right away I caught this fish:

This first trout took the Floating Sulfur Emerger.

This first trout took the Floating Sulfur Emerger. He hit the fly when it was about eight feet from my rod tip. You can see the front end of the fly in his mouth. I hooked two more right after this one on the same fly, but they wanted no part of having their picture taken, so they rather rudely excused themselves by making my line go limp.

I rose and missed more than a dozen trout in the course of the evening, and it is important here to note; why I chose to fish the shallower water, pockets, seams, and riffs. There were no trout rising in the pools. I did not want to waste my limited time by “looking for rising trout.” The fish in shallower water are generally always more prone to impulsive feeding when something presents itself, even on the surface. These fish are accustomed by now to looking for sulfur duns and spinners, and also Baetis, or BWO’s, so that was my logic behind the choice to fish dry flies in the shallow water. Plus, I could get close to the trout with out spooking them, able to make accurate presentations, short drifts through targeted zones, repetitive if necessary, all while making pretty short casts. Also a factor besides this, there were trees hugging both banks and extended limbs so I had to keep it short. Managing your drift is easier when casting to close range target areas; most of the time I had about six to ten feet of fly line beyond the rod tip. My leader was about eleven or twelve feet long, including the typical George Harvey front-section formula of about six feet of 3x, 4x, and 5x. In this type of water, and in most dry fly scenarios, one does not want the leader to straighten out, but rather remain somewhat coiled and snaked about on the water’s surface in S-curves. This promotes drag-free drifts. George Harvey’s leader designs are from the 1940’s, when gut leaders were still used, and his formulas predate the present “Czech”, “French,” “Euro,” whatever you choose to call it, leader designs, that are being touted these days as “new.” In fact, one of these days, I’ll write a piece on the reality of every single aspect of this “new” method of nymphing – rods, leaders, flies, technique, all being as old as the hills. It’s all hype and marketing.

I saw just a handful of trout rise, and I did not have a great evening on the water, but I had a good evening on the water. Most of the trout that rose took, or tried to take, the Floating Sulfur Emerger, but a number did come up after the dun as well. Another thing I noticed; there were more Baetis in the air than anything else. This is typical – chilly, all-cloudy day, that is what they like. I saw duns on the water and in the air, but perhaps Bill was correct; the cold front had put the trout “off.”

Here is a pic of the first trout to take the sulfur dun:

First trout of the evening on the Sulfur Poly-wing Thorax Dun.

First trout of the evening on the Sulfur Poly-wing Thorax Dun. This fly is a modified design of Vince Marinaro’s Thorax Dun; the poly-wing version was created by Barry Beck. I made further material composition modifications, particularly the use of the Sexi-Super-Dyna-Flexi Floss for the “quill body” abdomen, and I generally use poly yarn for the wings rather than the old “Poly-Fluff” or Hi-Vis” – now called E.P. Fibers he used to use.

Here is an upstream shot of the section I fished:

Section of riffles, pockets, seams 0- shallow, but the trout are here.

Section of Spring Creek riffles, pockets, seams – shallow, but the trout are here. Note the larger exposed and submerged boulders – structure – these create breaks in the stream flow, “seams” where currents of two different speed intersect – creating holding areas for trout, allowing them comfort while having the ease of opportunity to intercept drifting food items. Work these areas properly, either with a nymph or a dry fly, and it’s Game On!

Here is another important point I want to make: In the comment thread from the previous article, Bill Shuck mentioned about how more than once he had been on Spring Creek and spooked the largest trout in the stream just by stepping into the water, because sometimes big trout are near the bank, even in shallow water.” Most of us look for the trout where we expect them to be. Happened to me last night. We all probably spook more trout like this, because while we think we’re pretty good angler / predators, we really don’t pay attention enough of the time. If I had been looking, I would have seen a brown trout about nineteen inches long, up ahead of me, on the right, in just eight inches of water, so close to the bank that the long grass slightly overhung his position. When I was about twelve feet off, of course looking and casting out into the stream, his take-off made a resounding splash, a plume of silt, and a large wake as I watched him scoot off.

Right then, I gave myself a little more “expert” advice; by saying aloud, “Expletive. If I had been looking for that fish, I would have seen him first and been able to make a couple casts.” Here is one more pic of a trout that liked my Sulfur Dun:

Spring Creek 5-29-14 006Enjoyable evening on the water. I learned a few new things, got more affirmation of some of the things I already knew, even entertained myself by singing a little bit while fishing, and had a good time. This is about catching fish though. Don’t let anyone fool you by summing up a poor day or few hours on the water, saying, “It’s just good to get out.” That is, in fact, true. But realistically, how many of those people would continue to fish if they got skunked, again, and again, and again, and again…hardly any of us would go out if we couldn’t hook up now and then.

Hopefully you found a few informative and educational things here and among the other articles on my blog to help you get “tight lines” on future trips.

Spring Creek – First Trip 2014

Yesterday afternoon a friend, his son, and me went to Pennsylvania’s Spring Creek with hopes of catching some sulfur mayfly activity. We did. This article is a brief report on that trip.

The day was bright and sunny, and we selected a section of the stream to fish from the west bank, allowing for the sun to be at our backs. This gave us the advantage by reducing glare and minimizing eye strain, and also hid us from the fish because they have the glare in their right eye. We fished a section flowing from right to left. I always consider that whenever possible.

I started the first twenty minutes or so by giving my friend’s son, Sam, a lesson on nymph fishing. This was a refresher course on a demo that I had given him a few years earlier. As I narrated the approach, casting, targeting, drift management, striking, moving the indicator depending on the depth and current speed of the target area, and hook-setting, I had a couple strikes, and then, the one fish I did manage to hook, was lying in a most unlikely location, which added significantly to the learning impact of the lesson. The trout was holding in just a riffle, shallow, barely fifteen inches deep. Object lesson learned: “Don’t pass up any potential spot, even it you think it is too shallow, at least not on this crick.”

We hooked a few trout on nymphs, then adjourned stream-side for an early dinner of baloney and cheese sandwiches with mustard, before the hoped-for evening hatching and feeding activity. We started fishing again about five PM. Only an occasional trout rose, so I stayed with the nymphs and worked my way upstream through some riffles and pocket-water. I hooked a few trout, but nothing to write home about. For a change of pace I decided to start tossing a dry, or rather, my two-dry fly rig that I started using last year. This set-up is a sulfur dun of various styles with my Floating “Sulfur” (Caddis) Emerger trailing off this fly with about ten inches of 5x tippet. I tie it to the hook bend. After I made about three casts, I hooked a trout on the Floating Emerger. Took his photo as he reluctantly posed for me. The very next cast another trout took the emerger. I thought, whoa, this is gonna be great! Well, it was, almost, but not right away.

My first Spring Creek trout of 2014

My first Spring Creek trout of 2014, taken on my Floating Caddis – Mayfly “Sulfur” Emerger, a #14.

I walked downstream to a pool where my companions were, checked in with them, and since they had a few risers, and caught a few trout, I decided to move below them and try some riffles and pockets. I caught this guy on a #14 Sulfur Poly-wing Thorax Dun:

First trout that took the sulfur dun

First trout that took the sulfur dun in my two-dry fly rig.

I keep both these drys close together because they never alight with the tippet stretched out. The intent is to prevent the two flies from getting into current lanes with different speeds. If I have twelve inches of tippet between the two flies, the two patterns are often only a few inches apart. Trout can see both of them, I believe, and make their choice. The Floating Emerger was rising more trout in the afternoon, but as the hatch intensified, they seemed to prefer the dun, though all along trout continued to hit both flies.

We did not have a heavy hatch, and not a lot of trout were actively rising; it seemed sporadic at best. Still we caught trout. After hooking and raising several trout in the water below the pool where my companions fished, I started back up through the same section of riffles and pocket water I had fished previously, and decided to tie on a #12 Sulfur Parachute Dun. Why a size twelve, you ask? Well, some of Spring Creeks sulfurs are nearly that big, I’ve seen enough of ‘em over the last twenty-five to make the assessment with certainty. The other reason, and there are a few are: It was about seven PM, and a larger fly would be easier to see on the rough water I was fishing, and also easier to see as daylight faded into dusk. A larger fly would float better. A larger fly would be easier for the trout to see as well.

So that’s what I did, and trout took the large sulfur dun with no hesitation. The first trout I rose was in a fast riffle, and he smashed the fly; he was about fourteen inches. Every fish that took that fly, whacked it, but then again I was fishing faster, rather turbulent riffle and pocket water and they don’t have a lot of time to think about it. I like the challenge of fishing like this because it is very difficult to get the fly to drift naturally in many of the likely-looking spots. The heavy water allows me to get close enough to almost “dap” the flies on the water, very similar to close-range high-stick nymphing, because often I had only a few feet of fly line extending past the rod tip.

This trout was the fish of the day for me:

Sixten-inch Spring Crek brown taken on a #12 Sulphur Poly-wing parachute Dun.

Sixteen-inch Spring Creek brown taken on a #12 Sulphur Poly-wing Parachute Dun.

And since he, or rather, “she” was a nice trout, she warranted a few more pics:

head out of water, in the net. I always try to keep larger fish in the water, and always do when I'm photographing the fish by myself. And with a net.

Head out of water, in the net. I always try to keep larger fish in the water, and always do when I’m photographing the fish by myself. And with a net. You can see my fingers underneath her. To those unaware, the absence of a kype or hooked jaw, indicates this trout is a female.

And here she is posing in a lovely full-body image:

16" Spring Creek Brown, taken ion a #12 Sulfur Poly-wing  Parachute Dun.

16″ Spring Creek Brown, taken on a #12 Sulfur Poly-wing Parachute Dun.

I took another smaller trout later on:

Smaller trout, about ten inches,

Smaller trout, about ten inches, you can clearly see the parachute dun. When I want to photograph trout like this, I actually bring the trout in close, then before I touch the fish, I turn on my camera and hit the macro button. Sometimes after doing this the trout gets away, but I don’t care, I’m releasing it anyway. Once the camera is readied and “on,” I grab the fish, snap a pic, unhook the fly, and they’re quickly back in the water. I wet my hands first. When doing this I have the fish out of the water for about 5 – 6 seconds.

At this point I want to say, anyone keeping fish out of the water for photographs for more than ten seconds after you have played them into submission, presents the risk of harming the fish through lack of oxygen. Speed it up, preferably, respect the fish, and keep them out of the water as little as possible. Imagine someone holding your head under a bucket of water to take photos of you immediately after you just ran the 200-yard dash. That is the position the trout are in when we bring them to hand. And don’t get them on shore where you can drop them and have them slip and flop out of your grasp and die from trauma after being released. I recently read a study on steelhead trout, tagged with radio collars in the Pacific Northwest, where a significant number were dying after being caught and released. The data discovered that most of these fish died of head trauma, caused by thrashing about or being dropped onto the rocks on shore, and not from being hooked with rod and reel.

And here is the intact rig with the actual flies that did the deeds:

Size #12 Sulfur Poly-wing Parachute Dun

Size #12 Sulfur Poly-wing Parachute Dun with a #14 Floating “Sulfur” Emerger, patterned exactly after my Floating “Caddis” Emerger – the only change is the body dubbing color to ginger and I use orange thread. There was only eight inches of 5x tippet separating the two flies. Both flies are treated frequently with floatant.

This two-dry system works. I plan to try a Sulfur Dun and Sulfur Spinner together, that way the trout won’t treat me with disrespect like they did last year one evening, when the dun hatch fizzled out, and there were tons of spinners in the air, I thought I knew better and tied on a spinner. I ended up casting the spinner to about fifty rising trout, only to hook a handful of them. Turned out the dun hatch reignited and went gangbusters from about 8:15 until dusk, and the trout took the duns to my dismay, but I learned that lesson. I should have recognized that sooner. In the type of pocket and riffle water I was fishing, a Dun / Spinner two-dry fly rig will work. I’m about to test that out. ;-)

Here are two links to articles on the Sulfur Emerger I wrote last May 2013, including the recipe and tying instructions:

http://donbastianwetflies.com/2013/05/31/bastians-floating-caddis-sulphur-emerger/

http://donbastianwetflies.com/2013/05/31/bastians-floating-sulphur-emerger-part-ii/