Archive for the Smallmouth Bass Fishing Category

Looking back on 2016…

Posted in Carp, Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Rod Building, Saltwater, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on January 17, 2017 by stflyfisher

“To be able to look back upon one’s life in satisfaction, is to live twice”

Kahlil Gibran

The book on 2016 is now officially closed and as most who peruse my blog know, I like to take a look back on each year fly fishing the Southern Tier before looking forward to the year ahead.

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The beautiful West Branch of the Delaware – a classic Upstate New York trout fishery that will hopefully continue to provide great fly fishing in 2017…

2016 was an interesting mix of fly fishing highs and lows for the Southern Tier and for me in particular. I’ll summarize those points with commentary in this post. Look for a “year ahead” post in the coming weeks as well as a review of my performance to last year’s fly fishing goals and a list of what I want to accomplish in 2017.

Weather / Climate Summary – The top story of the year is the drought that started slowly, but hung on through summer and early fall to the point where many small creeks and streams were dangerously low, if not outright dried-up. Owego Creek, for example, was dry in sections, something I’ve never seen in the 24 years I’ve lived in the Southern Tier. What’s often not so good for some fishing, however, can be good for others. The warmwater rivers of our area were low enough for good wading access as early as April and even the mighty Susquehanna was low by late June.

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A large fallfish nest lies exposed on the Susquehanna River. This might be expected in a dry year in August, but to see this in late June is a testament to the severity of the 2016 drought.

By July, one could wade across the Susquehanna in many places! River flows hit a low of 500 CFS in mid-September – making fishing from a boat difficult in some areas later in summer. Note the USGS chart below…

susquehanna-2016-trend

As can be seen in the next chart, temperatures were on the warm side in February and March, precipitating early snow-melt, but then tracked in a fairly tight range for the remainder of the year. Precipitation, or lack thereof, was the bigger issue. The chart below shows a growing deficit that widened significantly into the early fall.

2016-temp-precip

BC Flyfisher’s 1st fly rod building class – The BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF kicked off 2016 with a rod building class taught by expert rod maker, Joe Swam. The class was outstanding – the group small enough to allow personalized teaching from Joe. It was so good I’m enrolled in the second annual rod building class as I write this. The best thing about the class was the knowledged gained on not only “how”, but “why” fly rods are built as they are. As an example, I never understood why the female end of each rod section is wrapped much like a guide. Now I know, thanks to the class, that the ferrule is very weak and the wrap serves to re-enforce the rod. Obviously too, rod building opens endless opportunity to build a rod that is totally your creation, and perfectly suited to your fly fishing needs. I’ll never buy another. Thanks, Joe!

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Rod wrapping with Hemingway.

Visit to Destin – I visited Destin, Florida, and my son Chris, on my way to a business trip destination at the end of January. I’d never been to the “Emerald Coast” of the panhandle of Florida. I brought my 9 weight saltwater fly fishing outfit with me but without much local guidance, I was unable to stir up a bite. Nonetheless, in talking with a few locals, I was immediately impressed with the fly fishing potential, especially when one older angler answered my query on the fishing by saying, ‘the fishing is not good, it is excellent, most excellent…’

April Steelhead – I made it out for steelhead on a very cold and wet, early April day. I once again was able to fish with friend Bob Card and guide Tony Gulisano. Tony is a great guide and is adept in angling for steelhead and salmon in all ways – spinning, centerpin, and fly fishing. Although I did raise one fish, I skunked out while Bob hooked into a number of steelhead and lost a few more. The only bad side to the trip were the repeated disappointing statements from Tony on what he was seeing as we drifted the river. The numbers of steelhead were low according to him – in some places he saw only a few fish where he’d normally see 20, 30, or more. Tony’s observations are based on years guiding the river. What he saw in early 2016 more or less predicted less than a great run of steelhead in the fall.

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Bob Card with a nice spring steelhead…

Owego Creek – I was able to get out on the “lower” Owego Creek with Rick Searles. Owego Creek is homewater to Rick – he knows it well and has caught some true trophy browns from the Owego. Rick showed me some areas to fish but was pretty up front about expectations. The lower Owego Creek is not loaded with trout but when one does find them they can be very high quality fish, including some big holdovers and wild browns as well. While I did not do so well the couple of times I fished it, I’m a believer in this small creek’s potential. Rick and I fished it in the spring but as mentioned above, by June the creek was extremely low. I stayed away from ALL creeks for the remainder of the year. I figured wild and holdover browns had enough to contend with from Mother Nature.

April Visit to Destin – I managed to visit Destin, Florida again in April along with my wife. We flew down to see our son, Chris, but in the process, decided to see what real estate was like. One thing led to another and before long we were hooked on buying. I never pictured my later life as involving the “snowbird migration”, but suddenly the thought of living part of the year in a warm climate where the fishing is both good and different and then returning north for late spring through fall seemed to appeal to me. On top of that, Destin has a strong vacation rental market and buying a property would allow us to own an investment that we could use a bit, letting rental income defray at least some of the cost before retirement. We ended up buying a townhouse on a stocked lake just minutes from the beach and 5 minutes by golf cart to Cowahatchee Bay…

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Early Season Bronze – The pre-spawn smallmouth bass bite turned out to be excellent. With water levels at spring lows, it didn’t take long to break out my smallmouth gear and look for some early season bronze. I had some excellent fishing starting with the smaller warmwater rivers like the Tioughnioga, but eventually even the big Susquehanna dropped to levels that offered exceptional fly fishing. This early season bite is always there, of course, but only when winters are mild and the rivers are relatively tame does it open up for the wading fly angler. I fished the smaller rivers early on and found some “football” smallies and equally stout fallfish in the river braids and shallow eddies…

Later in the spring, the big Susquehanna also dropped to wadeable levels, and the fishing opened up there too. I did my best to get out when the getting was good, and scored some nice bass in the process. I even got a chance to break in my newly made fly rod, dubbed “The Golden Bear” because of its Vestal High School colors of green and gold…

 

Trout & Memorial Day – I didn’t fly fish for trout as much as I’ve done in past years. Blame the low warmwater river levels and my obsession with smallmouth bass and other warmwater river species. I did make it down to my favorite place on the West Branch of the Delaware River a few times, the most memorable and personally rewarding being Memorial Day. A former sailor, Dan, contacted me out of the blue. He had read my Memorial Day blog posts and told me he had worked for Bob Shippee, one of the 37 on board who had died when the Stark was attacked in 1987. The more I read of Bob Shippee and the more I corresponded with the man who first wrote me about him, the more I wanted to write a tribute to Shippee.

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Memorial Day brown – and evidence that Bob Shippe was listening…

Carp – I ran into a few carp this year and fished for them intentionally a few more times. My first encounter was while fishing for early season bass with “The Golden Bear” – a good test of any rod and one that made me smile all the more.

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Big river carp are a great way to test out a newly built fly rod…

I caught another dandy on the Tioughnioga with Singer’s Crayfish in a size 6 – a great little pattern that’s equally good on smallmouth. In this specific case, I sawa at least a dozen carp moving and feeding in a deep hole. A few drifts with my crayfish pattern and I was hit solidly. What a great fight these fish can put on! My other attempts resulted in a few missed hook-ups but these scouting trips proved fruitful in uncovering a number of areas to fish in 2017.

Father’s Day – I spent a very special Father’s Day with a long distance fly fishing friend, Joe Laney. Originally from the northwest, Joe currently lives and works in Manhattan with his wife and daughter, but has connections in the Southern Tier through his wife’s family. He happened to read some of my posts way back when and eventually we met up to fish our local waters. Since then, we usually get out when he’s up our way. Joe’s a very good fly angler. On this past Father’s Day we explored the Otselic River and enjoyed catching some nice smallmouth bass, fallfish, and even a few rock bass. It’s always a joy to fish new water, especially with a good friend…

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Joe releases a nice fallfish on the beautiful Otselic River…

Catfish – I’ve been running into Mr. Whiskers for a number of years, but it seems like my encounters have increased most recently, prompting me to fish intentionally for them while out hunting bass. Counter to general opinion, the channel catfish that populate our warmwater rivers will aggressively hit a fly, especially large buggy streamers and nymphs. Once hooked, hang on for a deep and dirty fight, even on an 8 weight rod. The state record was a 32 lb fish caught in Brant Lake, but I’d bet river cats are tougher, pound for pound, than their laker kin due to river conditioning. I caught a half dozen up to 32″ with just as many missed in 2016 and repeated an early fall pattern where they were feeding on large emerging mayflies! Go figure…

The Fall Float – I’ve made it out on my small and humble kayak every fall for the last few years and these solo floats always prove very productive. The Susquehanna was very low when I launched downstream this year, making for some even skinnier paddling in places. I fished mainly buggers and the bass were hot to play, including several very nice ones. I did not get a shot at musky or pike, but saw a “fingerling” musky – maybe 12″ long holding near some weeds in about a foot of water. That was most encouraging. Also in the mix was a very nice channel cat and countless fallfish, probably one of the most under-rated beginner “fly fisher fish”, but a species that always fights with bravado and readily and heartily takes a fly…

Blues – The fishing for bluefish was pretty damn good this year. That’s something I truly missed the last several years. Fishing seemed to change off Barnegat Light / Long Beach Island ever since Hurricane Sandy decimated the Jersey shore and that change to the fishing (along with regulation changes) took its toll on the party boats. Whereas two boats – Doris Mae and Miss Barnegat Light – ALWAYS ran for blues from spring through fall, day and night, fishing deteriorated so badly that these boats began to cut back on their trips. Sadly, Doris Mae eventually sold out. Theories abound on specifically why the fishing has changed for Barnegat Light – some indicate bottom changes due to the storm – others point to changes in seasonal currents. Whatever the cause, the trip (think fuel expense and time to fish) to reach blues from Barnegat Light did not make business sense. So after reading some glowing reports this past fall, I looked about 40 minutes north to the boats out of Belmar and I was not disappointed. I took a trip aboard The Golden Eagle with my cousin, Mark, and we had a great day. The only disappointment was that the fish mainly wanted bait in the chum slick. I prefer to jig for them, but it was so good to feel their brute power…

Destin – My wife and I returned to Destin in early November to spend a week at our place there. I finally got a chance to meet Ed Greene, a local fisherman and neighbor to our realtor. He was gracious enough to take me out to the expansive Cowahatchee Bay on his center console 23 foot fishing boat. We fished primarily for “trout” as they are referred to in the south. The bay holds a wide range of gamefish, including summer flounder, ladyfish, bluefish, redfish, trout, jacks, spanish mackerel, and even cobia and tarpon. Once I got a handle on the fishing, thanks to Ed’s sage advice, I ventured out on my own, wading the bayside shallows and tidal creeks. I fished a 9 foot 8 weight rod, an intermediate line, a 6 foot leader, and a number of streamers / shrimp patterns, but the best producer was a chartreuse and white clouser minnow. My efforts were rewarded with a number of small trout, a redfish, many lizardfish, and a summer flounder – a great intro to fly fishing, Emerald Coast style, and to think it was only a 5 minute ride in a golf cart to miles of bay fly fishing…

Ed also was kind enough to take me out wreck fishing offshore in a friend’s 27 foot center console boat. Our target species was red snapper. We first jigged up live bait in the East Pass inlet using light spinning gear and tiny sabiki rigs. This was fun stuff in itself. Proper technique could end up with 3, 4, or even 5 feisty baitfish on the multiple hook rigs. After we had a good supply of live bait, we cranked up and headed offshore to wrecks that Ed had in his GPS unit. We fished in water 50 to 90’+ and used pretty stout boat rods with 60lb mono. The rig was classic bluefish stuff – egg sinker (in this case 8 ounces!), swivel, leader, and snelled circle hook. I’d never fished a circle hook and it does take some getting used to. The idea is to just let the fish take the bait and simply tighten up to it without lifting the rod. The circle hook then rotates in the fish’s mouth, rolls, and hooks the fish in the corner of the mouth. I quickly got the hang of it, and in combination with the 3 other gulf-fishing veterans, it wasn’ long before we each had our 2 fish limit in the cooler. These were beautiful red snappers, hard fighting and even better tasting…

Salmon – Another first for me was a trip to fish the salmon run in the Salmon River. I made it up to the Upper Fly Zone – an area I had never fished before but one about which I’d heard good comments. I fished it with angler friend Bob Card on a rainy day. For those unacquainted, the Upper Fly Zone is beautiful water and well worth a full day or days of fishing. I hooked up as did Bob but we did not land one of thee black beasts, primarily due to our position on the river. If nothing else, it was a great recon trip. I’ll certainly be back up there again in 2017.

The Magic of 100 – I’ll finish up this post with a comment on achieving a goal I set at the start of 2016 to “fish and/or engage in fly fishing events and activities 100 times”. Look for a future post on this idea of “100”in the near future, but setting that goal was largely responsible for most of the 2016 memories that I’ve posted here.

And so, I’ll close out 2016 with a wish that 2017 is even better for Southern Tier long rodders…!

 

 

The week ahead in fly fishing: October 3rd

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 2, 2016 by stflyfisher

The colors are beginning to fill in the hillsides. And the silver maples that line the river are turning to gold. This upcoming week will only get brighter in terms of the colors as we move towards peak. Meanwhile, the rains over late last week and the weekend served to at least add a little to our woefully deprived creeks. The fact that the Susquehanna bumped up a bit is a good sign but we still have a ways to go.

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This week we wade into October and the great fall fly fishing transition. Get out and wet a line now while conditions are still good for a broad swath of the species covered here. Remember too that the general trout season closes in two weeks, so the trouty types should get their fill while the getting’s good.

Fly shop talk: Many of us start off fishing with some idea on where we want to go and what we want to do. We may arrange to fish a river or stream with a friend or we may decide to fish alone. Whatever the case, how many of us have a well thought-out plan? Especially for those who work, time is precious, and time on the water even more so. Our fly fishing hours are precious, after all, and any fly fishing outing deserves a plan of some sort. I like to develop a Plan A and a back-up plan, Plan B. Plan A is developed after checking the weather, the USGS water gauge for the areas of interest, and fishing reports. Timing, access and egress, stretches of the water to be fished are all reviewed in advance. Plan B develops along the same lines but is a back-up plan with a twist. I always have a Plan B whenever I go fishing thanks to Mike Hogue, a well-known Ithaca area angler and owner of Badger Creek Fly Tying. Mike writes a lot about “exploring” fishing trips, and so my Plan B is always fishing new water. That way, if Plan A is a bust because the fish aren’t cooperating, I always end the day on a high note by feeling like I made the best of it and took time to explore new water. One never knows when new water ends up being favorite water, too.

Here’s the fly fishing report for the week ahead:

Great Lakes / Finger Lakes tributaries:  The DEC recently announced that it’s closed the Lower Fly Zone to fishing until further notice. This announcement came in conjunction with a cut in the release for the river. The release cut was apparently made to conserve reservoir water in case the current drought persists. It’s being done to protect the spawning salmon, according to the DEC. It’s anyone’s guess what impact this lower release will have on the salmon run. Some believe lower water hinders the run, while others believe the salmon will run to spawn, regardless of conditions. The Douglaston Salmon Run is reporting that there’s currently a very light trickle of fish into lower part of the river (“3s and 4s”), and throughout the DSR section of the river. Anglers are catching fish but the best action seems to be in the early hours of the morning. Whitakers Sport’s Store and Motel is reporting that the fish have adjusted to the low water and have mostly been holding in the deep holes during the day and moving from hole to hole at night. With increased fishing pressure the best action has been first thing in the morning and later in the day once the crowd thins out. Anglers who have had the most success stayed in and around the deeper holes.  The low water pushes the fish to the deeper holes because it’s the only place they can hide and have cover. Because these areas can be crowded and the water is low and clear, the fish may be skittish or more line shy then normal. Using fluorocarbon, adjusting leader/tippet, and using more natural colors instead of big bright flashy stuff can all make a difference under the current conditions.

Catskill rivers: The West Branch Angler reports that the area got some rain this weekend but not enough to make much difference to the river but they did increase the release overnight bringing Stilesville up to 642 cfs and just under 800 cfs at Hale Eddy. The river still has a decent amount of stain, especially on the West due to the release this time of year.  We’ve had rain the last few days and the streamer fishing has been decent for most. We have had some Blue Winged Olives and Cahills but the dry fly fishing has been spotty at best overall.  The temps are in the low to mid 50’s on the West and upper 50’s on the mainstem.  The water is a bit cleaner down on the mainstem as the silt drops as you head down river.  Nymph fishermen are doing well now that the rivers aren’t too high due to releases. The Delaware River Club reports that the recent release from Cannonsville Reservoir is 696 cfs. This leaves the West Branch is decent shape for both floating and wading. The Mainstem will rise a little but will also remain good for wading and floating. The East Branch temperatures are decent and the river is in good shape for wading. We have been hearing some reports of fish being landed on the lower stretches. Wet flies and caddis pupa have been working for the nymphers while small dark streamers are taking some fish. We are seeing some isonychias in spots. They still seem a little spotty but some people are finding decent numbers of them.  Most of the dry fly action has been on small olives in the afternoon.

 

Here’s what’s hatching:

  • Slate Drake – 12-2xl- 14- Isonychia bicolor
    Sulphur – #16-20 – E dorothea
    Light Cahill – #14 – 16 –
    Tiny Blue Winged Olive – #22 – 26 – Psuedocloeon spp.
    Blue Winged Olive – #18 – 20 – E. lata
    Light Blue Winged Olive – #16 – 20 E. attenuatta
    Tan Caddis – #16 – 20 – Hydropsyche spp.
    Dark Brachycentrus sp. – #14 – 18 – Dark Grannom
    Little Black Caddis #18 – 20 – Chimarra sp.
    Blue Winged Olives #16 – 18 – Baetis vagans (updated name: Baetis tricaudatus)

Local streams and creeks: Creeks picked up a little water with recent rains but not much. Cooler nights are helping the warm water but it’s still best to give the creek trout a break for now.

Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone gives the following lake-by-lake report:

  • Cayuga Lake:  Fishing for lake trout is fair to good. Bonus salmonids are occasionally in the mix.  Crews are replacing the intake screen at AES.  There are a couple barges out there.
  • Owasco Lake:  The water level here is low but launchable without problems thus far. Lake trout action here has been fair to good.  Bonus bass, rainbow and brown trout are around. Smallmouth bass fishing should be good.  Perch and pike fishing should pick up.
  • Seneca Lake:  The water level here is very low.  Launching could be a problem in areas. Expect pike fishing to pick up as the lake cools.  The southern third of the lake should offer some fair fishing for browns, lake trout and salmon, but it’s still a crapshoot.
  • Skaneateles Lake:  Smallmouth bass fishing is fair to good.  Bonus perch are around as well as the usual rockbass.  The water level is very low here but launching at the State Launch is not a problem.

Ponds: As we move into cooler weather, fishing will be best in the late afternoon and early evening when water temps are highest. Bass and sunfish will remain active and willing partners to fly fishermen under current conditions. Topwater is a good choice and don’t forget the damselfly, grasshopper, cricket, and beetle patterns. Poppers will work well along weed edges, structure, and lilly pads.

Warmwater rivers: The warmwater rivers were dropping to new lows but got a little recharge due to the recent rains. Still, they are easily waded, making for great fly fishing. These river levels are allowing a lot of normally out-of-reach pools, runs, and riffles to be accessed safely.

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The Susquehanna, like all of the warmwater rivers, is seen here “baring its shoulders”, evidence of a very dry year…

The smallmouth bite remains excellent thanks to cooling water temps which seem to be strengthening the fall bite. Water temps are as low as the mid 60’s.

The rivers are loaded with bait and that bait is getting bigger as fall progresses. Water clarity is excellent. Early morning and late afternoon to sun-down are the best times to hit the rivers. Focus on the pool tailouts where smallmouth often set up to chase bait in the shallower water. Key in on structure and in particular, rocks, downfalls, and weedbeds. Streamers are the best bet, however, poppers can also be good, particularly in pools, slower water, and eddies. And remember on bluebird sky days where the sun is really bright, look for shady areas to fish as bass are light-shy.

In addition to smallmouth bass, be prepared to encounter a variety of other warmwater species. Fishing streamers and large nymphs in the deeper pools and around structure can often times drum up a good mix of river species. Channel catfish, walleye, northern pike, carp, fallfish, and musky can all be caught on any given day on the warmwater rivers.

Fly fishing events: Here’s a summary of what’s in store for the week:

  • The BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF is auctioning their prized 100th Anniversary Cortland Fly Rod. Read more about this unique and valuable fly rod, here.
  • The Twin Tier Five Rivers chapter of IFFF will hold its next general meeting on October 3rd. Former Cornell professor Dr. Tony Ingraffrea will be visiting to talk about fishing Alaska. While some know Dr. Ingraffrea from his talks about fracking and the Marcellus Shale, he also has had the pleasure of fishing in Alaska many times, and on Oct. 3rd he plans to discuss those many trips, along with tips for making your own trip of a lifetime to the last frontier the best it can be.

The week ahead weather: WBNG’s week-ahead weather forecast is as follows:

According to WBNG’s Nathan Hopper, the cut-off low pressure system is still hanging around the Great Lakes just as we thought it would because it’s separated from the main jet stream. We don’t expect it to move very far from that area, which means that clouds and showers will be possible up through Monday here in the Southern Tier. High pressure then looks to kick that cut-off low back into the main jet stream and move it toward the northeast early in the week. Once that high pressure takes hold in the central plains, we’ll start to see a clearing trend and drier conditions will work their way in by mid-week. Thursday will be sunny under that high pressure, and temperatures will be comfortable as they work toward the 70-degree mark. 70 degrees is about 8 degrees above average for the first week in October. The next weather-maker looks to come in Friday and affect Saturday, as well, with a 30% chance of showers on Saturday.

 

 

The week ahead in fly fishing: September 26th

Posted in Carp, Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , , , on September 26, 2016 by stflyfisher

Fall is here and the hillsides are starting to show it. Although we still have about two weeks to go for peak colors, some trees are starting to lighten up. Leaves are even falling, no doubt due to the drought that has a lock on the Southern Tier. Nights are getting cooler and cooler days look to follow. This is one of the best times of the year to get out and fly fish. Besides the spectacular scenery and wildlife, many local fish species are starting to prepare for winter in two ways – feeding up and/or heeding mother nature’s call to spawn. In both cases, these fish are either feeding to put on weight before the long winter or are biting out of aggression and competition.

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Most people think of fall in hues of scarlet, orange, and yellow. Fly fishers tend to think of fall in hues of olive and black…

Fly shop talk: The New York State DEC held a public hearing on September 14th. Concerned area residents and i-3 Electronics representatives met at Union-Endicott High School for a public information / public comment session on a draft permit for wastewater discharge for i3, formerly EIT. While some have expressed concerns that the permit allows toxic waste to be dumped into the Susquehanna River, members of the DEC say that part of the reason they hosted the information session was to alert the public that the permit works to protect the Susquehanna. I’ve not thoroughly investigated whether the leachate waste that’s being treated is harmful to our beautiful Susquehanna River, nor have I seen outward signs of damage to fish or other river life. But I am scratching my head over how a state that bans fracking can turn around and allow the transportation and treatment of fracking waste and the subsequent discharge of the treated waste into the Susquehanna. I plan on submitting my concerns to the DEC. While the public comment meeting has passed, any interested person may submit comments in writing to the DEC. According to the DEC, all comments will be considered in making the final decision about issuance of this permit. Written comments about the permit modification and renewal must be RECEIVED BY September 30, 2016 to be considered and should be sent to:

Teresa Diehsner
NYSDEC Headquarters
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233
(518)402-9167
DEPPermitting@dec.ny.gov

Here’s the fly fishing report for the week ahead:

Great Lakes / Finger Lakes tributaries: The Douglaston Salmon Run is reporting that the movement of salmon up the run has slowed recently. There are fish staging in the estuary. Water temp is around 65 degrees and flows are a steady 400 CFS. Fish are being caught but not so much as during last week. Streamers, buggers, and egg patterns will work on salmon.

Catskill rivers: The West Branch Angler reports that the release from the West Branch has been lowered once again with current flows in the mid 600’s and temps averaging in the mid 50’s. The water still has a pretty good stain going on with several feet of visibility. The water does clear as you head down the West Branch and onto the mainstem which is just under 1,000 cfs with a temp around 60 degrees. There have been a few Blue Winged Olives in the afternoon hours in size 18-24 throughout the system as well as a few 14-16 Cahills.  There are also still a few tricos around in the mornings. Streamers are still a good bet on the West. The Delaware River Club reports that the cool nights have helped dropped the water temperatures, even on the low water of the East Branch. Olives and Isos have been working well, but make sure your box has flying ants and small dark Caddis. Lower water should make nymphing productive, even with the sun.

Here’s what’s hatching:

  • Slate Drake – 12-2xl- 14- Isonychia bicolor
    Sulphur – #16-20 – E dorothea
    Light Cahill – #14 – 16 –
    Tiny Blue Winged Olive – #22 – 26 – Psuedocloeon spp.
    Blue Winged Olive – #18 – 20 – E. lata
    Light Blue Winged Olive – #16 – 20 E. attenuatta
    Tan Caddis – #16 – 20 – Hydropsyche spp.
    Dark Brachycentrus sp. – #14 – 18 – Dark Grannom
    Little Black Caddis #18 – 20 – Chimarra sp.
    Blue Winged Olives #16 – 18 – Baetis vagans (updated name: Baetis tricaudatus)

Local streams and creeks: Creeks picked up a little water with recent rains but not much. Cooler nights are helping the warm water but it’s still best to give the creek trout a break for now.

Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone gives the following lake-by-lake report:

  • Cayuga Lake:  Fishing continues to be good to very good for lake trout.  Bonus salmonoids are occasionally in the mix. I would expect good largemouth bass fishing here as well as perch action.
  • Owasco Lake:  Expect fair to good trout action here with shots at bonus rainbows, browns and smallmouths. Smallmouth bass fishing should be good and pike fishing should be picking up.
  • Seneca Lake:  Expect poor to fair lake trout action and fair to good action on the other salmonids.  I expect pike fishing to pick up as the lake cools.
  • Skaneateles Lake:  Smallmouth bass fishing is very good to excellent.  Bonus perch are around as well as the usual rockbass.
  • Otisco Lake: Bass fishing has reportedly been good with some Tiger Muskies in the mix.

Ponds: As we move into cooler weather, fishing will be best in the late afternoon and early evening. Bass and sunfish will remain active and willing partners to fly fishermen under current conditions. Topwater is a good choice and don’t forget the damselfly, grasshopper, cricket, and beetle patterns. Poppers will work well along weed edges, structure, and lilly pads.

Warmwater rivers: The warmwater rivers continue to drop, making for easy wading and great fly fishing. The Susquehanna is back to crashing lows for the year and at current levels can be forded in many locations. There are a lot of normally out-of-reach pools, runs, and riffles that can be accessed safely.

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Looking upriver on the Susquehanna River

The smallmouth bite is very good to excellent thanks to cooling water temps which seem to be strengthening the fall bite. I’m currently measuring water temps as low as the mid 60’s on the Tioughnioga, but in general, water temps will range from the low 60’s to mid 70’s depending on the river and location.

The rivers are loaded with bait and that bait is getting bigger as fall progresses. Water clarity is excellent. Early morning and late afternoon to sun-down are the best times to hit the rivers. Focus on the pool tailouts where smallmouth often set up to chase bait in the shallower water. Key in on structure and in particular, rocks, downfalls, and weedbeds. Streamers are the best bet, however, poppers can also be good, particularly in pools, slower water, and eddies. And remember on bluebird sky days where the sun is really bright, look for shady areas to fish as bass are light-shy.

In addition to smallmouth bass, be prepared to encounter a variety of other warmwater species. Fishing streamers and large nymphs in the deeper pools and around structure can often times drum up a good mix of river species. Channel catfish, walleye, northern pike, carp, fallfish, and musky can all be caught on any given day on the warmwater rivers.

Fly fishing events: Here’s a summary of what’s in store for the week:

  • The BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF is auctioning their prized 100th Anniversary Cortland Fly Rod. Read more about this unique and valuable fly rod, here.
  • The Twin Tier Five Rivers chapter of IFFF will hold its next general meeting on October 3rd. Former Cornell professor Dr. Tony Ingraffrea will be visiting to talk about fishing Alaska. While some know Dr. Ingraffrea from his talks about fracking and the Marcellus Shale, he also has had the pleasure of fishing in Alaska many times, and on Oct. 3rd he plans to discuss those many trips, along with tips for making your own trip of a lifetime to the last frontier the best it can be.

The week ahead weather: WBNG’s week-ahead weather forecast is as follows:

According to WBNG’s Brian Schroeder, a cool body of Canadian high pressure moving through Ontario and Quebec will keep temperatures in the upper 50s to low 60s, with frost possible. A low will move across the Great Lakes early in the week. We’ll start Monday with sunshine, but the clouds will be increasing. There will be a slight chance for some showers late Monday night. The clouds and the chance of showers will continue Tuesday and Tuesday night, but will wind down for Wednesday. High pressure moves in later in the week giving us partly cloudy skies on Friday and mostly sunny skies on Saturday. Temperatures will rebound into the upper 60s and low 70s by Saturday.

 

The week ahead in fly fishing: September 19th

Posted in Carp, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , , on September 18, 2016 by stflyfisher

This week marks the official start of fall, September 22nd to be exact. And Mother Nature seems to recognize it. Trees are starting to take on hues of fall – the hillsides are dotted by a few maples that are beginning to show their scarlet colors. Goldenrod in the fields is in full bloom and oaks are starting to drop their acorns. The other day I made my way down to a river, strolling through an adjacent field. I kicked up grasshoppers, enjoying the afternoon warmth, with every stride.

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Looking downriver at dusk on the beautiful Tioughnioga

Fly shop talk: Here’s a little bit more about the autumnal equinox, courtesy of The Weather Channel:

During the autumnal equinox, day and night are balanced to about 12 hours each all over the world. Instead of the Earth tilting away from or toward the sun, its axis of rotation becomes perpendicular to the line connecting the centers of the Earth and the sun.

“This change in the tilt causes the change in seasons with the northern hemisphere moving from the warmth of summer to the chill of winter,” said weather.com digital meteorologist Linda Lam. “This process includes a shift in the overall location of the jet stream which plays an important role in weather conditions.”

From that point on, daylight in the Northern Hemisphere gradually becomes shorter up until the winter solstice. This is the opposite of what occurs in the Southern Hemisphere, where daylight won’t grow any longer.

Here’s the fly fishing report for the week ahead:

Great Lakes / Finger Lakes tributaries: It’s time to add this fishing category to my report. Right now the Douglaston Salmon Run is reporting movement of small pods of salmon up the run. These fish are staging in the estuary and are either moving up the river or even turning around, most likely due to the warmer water. River flows are around 400 CFS with a temp in the mid 60’s.

Catskill rivers: 

The West Branch Angler reports that all of the fishermen who haven’t been able to wade the West Branch of the Delaware River will be happy with the new flow. The Cannonsville Reservoir release was cut over the weekend and flows have dropped from well over 1,000 CFS to 500 CFS. We will still have the same bugs and the fish will be a more likely to come to the surface with the lower water. The flying ants in size 18-24 will be around for a while as well as a few Isonychia and Cahills. The Delaware River Club reports recent rains have not done much for river flows. Most people seemed to be throwing streamers over the weekend but there has been a decent mix of olives, cahills, and some isonychias hatching.

 

Here’s what’s hatching:

  • Slate Drake – 12-2xl- 14- Isonychia bicolor
    Sulphur – #16-20 – E dorothea
    Light Cahill – #14 – 16 –
    Tiny Blue Winged Olive – #22 – 26 – Psuedocloeon spp.
    Blue Winged Olive – #18 – 20 – E. lata
    Light Blue Winged Olive – #16 – 20 E. attenuatta
    Tan Caddis – #16 – 20 – Hydropsyche spp.
    Dark Brachycentrus sp. – #14 – 18 – Dark Grannom
    Little Black Caddis #18 – 20 – Chimarra sp.
    Blue Winged Olives #16 – 18 – Baetis vagans (updated name: Baetis tricaudatus)

Local streams and creeks: Nothing new here. The low, warm water warns, “stay away.” Give the creek trout a break for now.

Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone gives the following lake-by-lake report:

  • Cayuga Lake:  Fishing continues to be good to very good for lake trout.  Bonus salmonoids are occasionally in the mix. I would expect good largemouth bass fishing here as well as perch action.
  • Owasco Lake:  Expect fair to good trout action here with shots at bonus rainbows, browns and smallmouths. Smallmouth bass fishing should be good and pike fishing should be picking up.
  • Seneca Lake:  Expect poor to fair lake trout action and fair to good action on the other salmonids.  I expect pike fishing to pick up as the lake cools.
  • Skaneateles Lake:  Smallmouth bass fishing is very good to excellent.  Bonus perch are around as well as the usual rockbass.
  • Otisco Lake: Bass fishing has reportedly been good with some Tiger Muskies in the mix.

Ponds: Still not much new to report here as long as warm days and cool nights continue in the forecast. Fishing will be best in the late afternoon and early evening. Bass and sunfish remain active and willing partners to fly fishermen under current conditions. Topwater is a good choice and don’t forget the damselfly, grasshopper, cricket, and beetle patterns. Poppers will work well along weed edges, structure, and lilly pads.

Warmwater rivers: The warmwater rivers continue to drop, making for easy wading and great fly fishing. At current levels, even the Susquehanna can be forded in many locations and a lot of out-of-the-way pools, runs, and riffles can be accessed safely.

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The Susquehanna River hit a new low for the year – 500 CFS…

The smallmouth bite remains very good thanks to cooling water temps which seem to be strengthening the fall bite. I recently recorded temps as low as the upper 60’s on the Tioughnioga, but in general, water temps will range form the upper 60’s to mid 70’s.

The rivers are loaded with bait and water clarity remains excellent. Early morning and late afternoon to sun-down are the best times to hit the rivers. Focus on the pool tailouts where smallmouth often set up to chase bait in the shallower water. Key in on structure and in particular, rocks, downfalls, and weedbeds. Streamers are the best bet, however, poppers can also be good, particularly in pools, slower water, and eddies.

And while fishing for smallmouth bass, be prepared to encounter other warmwater species…

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Channel catfish, like this nice specimen, will aggressively take a fly…

Fishing streamers and large nymphs in the deeper pools and around structure can often times drum up a good mix of river species. Channel catfish, walleye, northern pike, carp, fallfish, and musky can all be in the mix on any given day on the warmwater rivers.

The rivers can still be wet waded comfortably, but be aware that wet wading in sandy or muddy river bottom areas can expose one to leeches. I was recently reminded of this, finding a rather large one attached to my lower leg! Leeches are generally not harmful – clean the bite area thoroughly with soap and water and hydrogen peroxide and don’t be surprised if the wound bleeds for a while. Leeches will actually secrete an anticoagulant enzyme when they bite. And while getting bitten is not a great thing, the fact that leeches are around should serve as a reminder that the use of a leech pattern fly can be deadly for most warmwater river species. Walleyes, in particular, can’t resist leechy-looking flies in olive, brown, and black.

Fly fishing events: After a summer break, area fly fishing clubs and chapters are getting back to business. Here’s a summary of what’s in store for the week:

  • The Al Hazzard chapter of TU will hold their first monthly meeting of the fall on Tuesday, September 20th at 7 pm at the Vestal Library. Speaker, to be announced.
  • The BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF will hold their first monthly meeting after the summer break on Thursday, September 22 at 7 pm, with a fly tying demonstration at 6:30 pm. The meeting will be held at the Endicott Library. The guest speaker will be Bill Kessler, a devoted Atlantic Salmon fisherman who has fished from a couple hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle in Russia, to Scotland, Ireland, and his “local” fisheries on the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec and in New Brunswick.  Bill will describe the Atlantic’s life cycle, habitat, and will describe various methods of fishing for salmon, using both wet and dry flies.  He will discuss the equipment — flies, lines, rods and reels as well as describe both single and double hand casting techniques and when to use them. Bill will bring samples of the equipment and flies and will regale us with stories of his most memorable experiences. As usual, the meeting is open to the general public at no fee.
  • The BC Flyfishers will be auctioning their prized 100th Anniversary Cortland Fly Rod, starting with the September 22nd general meeting. Read more about this unique and valuable fly rod, here.
  • The Twin Tier Five Rivers chapter of IFFF will hold its next general meeting on October 3rd. Former Cornell professor Dr. Tony Ingraffrea will be visiting to talk about fishing Alaska. While some know Dr. Ingraffrea from his talks about fracking and the Marcellus Shale, he also has had the pleasure of fishing in Alaska many times, and on Oct. 3rd he plans to discuss those many trips, along with tips for making your own trip of a lifetime to the last frontier the best it can be.

The week ahead weather: WBNG’s week-ahead weather forecast is as follows:

According to WBNG’s Nathan Hopper, there’s another cold front currently situated in the Upper Midwest and is separate from the front that rolled through over the weekend. After the cold front pushes through, the chance for showers will stick with us on Monday, though things will progressively dry out through Monday. Tuesday looks to be more seasonable with the sun out and the humidity to a more comfortable level. High pressure then takes over and the sun will remain with us through the end of the week, as mostly clear conditions prevail. Temperatures will hang out just above average for the week, with highs in the low- to mid-70s.

Looking out a little longer term, forecasters are saying that cold fronts will be more common across the Northeast through the rest of September. This roller coaster-type weather pattern is typical for autumn months and will only increase in frequency and magnitude through November. However, one can expect warmer temperatures to win out over the cooler temperatures through the rest of the month.

The week ahead in fly fishing: July 25

Posted in Carp, Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Flies - Local Favorites, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on July 24, 2016 by stflyfisher

This is the first “week ahead” fly fishing report on Southern Tier Fly Fisher. As explained in a previous post, my weekly reports and other fly fishing articles will reside here until I have a new improved site in place.

It’s hot out there, and I should start my report by saying these are tough times for trout, particularly for the resident fish that inhabit local creeks. A recent stop at an access on the West Branch of Owego Creek was enough to remind me that this is not the time to stress coldwater species. My recommendation is to focus on warmwater stuff – brownlining as I sometimes refer to it. Take time to explore the many great warmwater fisheries we have and leave the high octane guys alone for a while.

Summer heat is here although we’ve had a string of cool nights to check the oppressive daytime temps. In our neck of the woods, watering corn fields is pretty much unheard of but I recently observed it in action for some newly sprouted corn. That says something. Some areas are harder hit than others – lawns are a good barometer.

Here’s the fly fishing report for the week ahead:

Catskill Rivers: The West Branch Angler reports that after several days with very warm air temps it was nice to wake up today to a river with some more cold water running through it. The West Branch at Hale Eddy is flowing a nice 822 this morning, a great little cold water bump that will help keep more downriver sections cooler during this heat wave. The increased release is always a good thing, giving the slower moving sections of water a bit more texture throughout the river. The Sulphurs are still coming off consistently starting in the early afternoon hours up around Deposit. Even though it doesn’t look like much cloud cover over the next few days you will likely see a few BWO’s in the 18-22 range as well as some 14-16 Cahills. The Isonychia are still around in small numbers. Terrestrials are always safe bets this time of year so don’t forget the ants and beetles. Nymphing on the upper West has been pretty tough due to the algae in the water but the extra flow should help clear it out a bit. Downriver, say on the lower half of the West, the algae isn’t nearly as bad and nymphing is much easier.

Local streams and creeks: The creeks and small streams in our area are incredibly low, clear, and on the warm side right now. It’s best to leave these waters alone as long as the heat and dry conditions prevail. If you do fish, fish early or late and try to land and release fish quickly.

Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone reports that Lake Trout action is top-notch on Cayuga and Owasco Lakes. Cayuga will likely provide some excellent fishing over the next 6 weeks at the very least. Cayuga Lake is usually good for all day action in August. Here’s John’s lake-by-lake report:

  • Owasco Lake:  Lake trout action is top notch. Angling Zone friend/client Rick nabbed an 11lb brown here late last week.  It was a 28″er! Bass fishing is decent. There’s no shortage of bait on this lake.
  • Cayuga Lake:  Fishing here ranges from very good to excellent for lake trout. There are good numbers of sizeable lakers throughout the lake.
  • Seneca Lake:  Lake trout fishing should be fair to good. Plenty of weeds are floating around. Angling Zone Friend/Client Andrew nailed a giant brown here recently.
  • Skaneateles Lake:  Smallmouth bass fishing should be good to excellent. Lake trout action should be fair to good.
  • Otisco Lake:  Tiger musky fishing had been good with some very large fish around. Bass fishing should be good.

Ponds: Ponds are definitely dropping and warming. Bass and sunfish are very active and willing partners to fly fishermen under these conditions, but low light early or late is best. Topwater is a good choice and don’t forget the damselfly, grasshopper, cricket, and beetle patterns. Poppers will work well along weedlines and lilly pads.

Warmwater rivers: All of the warmwater rivers are running clear, low and warm. Water temps are in the 75 – 80 degree range and wading is very easy with the low flows. Reports have been mixed. Smallmouth bass can be found hunting around the weeds and structure during the mornings and evenings. You’ll also find them hanging in the tailouts of pools chasing bait, sometimes in very skinny water, but mainly when the light is low. During the day, the bass will be deep and in the riffles and runs. Hellgrammite and crayfish imitations fished like a nymph will work well. Channel catfish and fallfish will also be found in the mix. And carp are now pretty active all day long in the weedy pools and tailouts. They can be caught with buggy-looking nymphs and crayfish imitations. Sight-fishing can be especially effective to mudding fish. The white fly hatch is due to start any time now. I’ve seen a few white flies coming off towards evening but nothing of significance yet. Once the hatch gets going, be prepared for terrific topwater flyfishing.

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The Susquehanna River, shown here, is flowing low and clear. Flows recently dropped below 1,000 CFS, making for great wet wading on these hot summer days.

Fly fishing events: Area fly fishing clubs and chapters take the months of July and August off so there is nothing to report here. However, one noteworthy announcement is the following press release concerning the work that Gary Romanic, VP of the BC Flyfishers has done to secure a large donation to reach out to veterans in our area and offer fly fishing opportunities and instruction:

Binghamton, NY – Broome County Executive Debbie Preston, Broome County Legislators, and Director of Veteran Services Brian Vojtisek joined the Broome County Veterans Fly Fishing Program to discuss details of a recent donation to help the program. Broome County recently gave $10,000 to the program to help offset costs for travel to fly fishing destinations to facilitate fly fishing instruction.

“As you know, veterans hold a very special place in my heart and I’m willing to help them out in any way that I can,” says Broome County Executive Debbie Preston.  “Fly fishing is a wonderful activity and I’m on board with anything we can do to help our local veterans live the best possible life they can after sacrificing a part of their life for this Country.”

The mission of the Binghamton Veteran Fly Fishers is to lift the morale and support the welfare of Broome County veterans. “We want to thank the County Executive and Brian Vojtisek in the Veterans Services Office for this wonderful donation,” says Gary Romanic, vice president of the Broome County Veterans Fly Fishing program.  “This money will go a long way in not only getting the veterans to prime fly fishing areas, but also to provide instruction to those who have never fished before.”

“When we were approached for a donation last year, we were delighted to help,” says Director of Veteran Services Brian Vojtisek.  “This program fits into our mission of helping veterans financially, and in adjusting to a return to civilian life.”This is a one-time donation.

The week ahead weather: The weather for the week ahead will be mainly summer sizzle with the usual thunderstorm potential on Monday and Friday and if you can believe it, showers on Sunday at the end of the week. Highs will range in the upper 80’s to low 90’s with lows in the low 60’s. There will be relief at the end of the week with highs dropping to the high 70’s / low 80’s. Tuesday and Wednesday will have bright sun. And speaking of sun, this is the time of year to be extra vigilant with regards to sun protection. Cover up with protective clothing or lather up with sun screen. And don’t forget a hat and sunglasses. The eyes can suffer on bright days and a good pair of polarized sunglasses will definitely help in spotting fish.

 

 

 

 

A fly rod all my own…

Posted in Fishing Reports, Gear, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on June 8, 2016 by stflyfisher

Fly fishers are blessed with opportunity and not only with all the fly fishing that’s available throughout our great country. This wonderful sport offers participants so many other ways to be involved beyond wetting a line, and these niches, in and of themselves, can become full time fly fishing activities. One look at the fly tying greats and it’s readily apparent that some spend more time fly tying than actually using their flies to fool fish.

Beyond fly tying, fly fishermen can learn how to tie custom leaders and how to make nets, wading staffs, and other wading accessories. They can pursue the art of fly casting or focus on the conservation side of the sport. Entomology is yet another area that can be mastered for those anglers with a scientific bent. And finally, there is the craft of fly rod building.

My own foray into rod building started when my local fly fishing club, the BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF, offered a class on the subject. For $125, the class offered participants a fly rod kit. Most kits were 9 foot, 6 weight, 2 piece kits, but a participant could substitute another rod kit of their choosing, as I did. I purchased a 2 piece, 8 weight, medium fast action PacBay blank in a rich forest green finish. The kit was reasonably priced and with the right components could serve duty as a heavy warmwater river rod, lake rod, and light saltwater rod with saltwater grade components. Rod building materials such as epoxy and varnish, tools such as a basic wrapping station, files, and other items, and free instruction given by a master rod maker over three, 4 hour classes, were also included in the price of the class. The class ended up being one of the best “investments” of money I’ve ever made in the realm of fly fishing, much of it attributed to the outstanding instruction of Joe Swam, BCFF member and professional rod maker.

I’ve documented the details of the class with slideshows on my Examiner.com site where I write as the Binghamton Fly Fishing Examiner, but as an overview, I’ll list the basic rod building process:

  • Finding the spline – a critical step used to determine guide orientation.
  • Installing the grips – this step consists of prep work to allow the cork to seat into position on the rod and then the application of 2 part epoxy to secure the grip in place. Additionally, the reel seat is shimmed for gluing later in the process.
  • Ferrule wrapping – this was just the beginning of a lot of rod wrapping. The ferrules (where rod sections are joined) are a stress point and would break eventually if they are not reinforced by wrapping.
  • Prepping the guides – filing and sanding the guide feet is critical for secure guide placement on the rod blank.
  • Wrapping the winding check and the hook keeper.
  • Spacing, aligning and wrapping the guides. Lining guides up true can be challenging.
  • Prepping and epoxying the reel seat in place and gluing the cap.
  • Setting and expoxying the tip-top guide in place.
  • Wrapping the tip-top guide.
  • Treating the wraps with color preservative (optional) and then finishing the wraps with varnish or epoxy.
  • Adding cosmetic touches such as a decal, measuring wraps, etc.

While the steps don’t look difficult on paper, the “hands-on” of fly rod building takes a bit of doing. It’s easy to say, for example, “ream the cork grip, glue the rod blank, and slide into place”, but a seasoned rod maker like Joe Swam made all the difference by providing the nuances of the process, like the proper fit of the cork grip, how to mix the 2 part epoxy, and how to ream out a little extra flare at the butt end of the cork grip to give the excess glue a place to collect. I cannot imagine doing this the first few times on my own, and I’d highly recommend that anyone interested in building a fly rod take a class in the art of rod making – even a very basic one – before trying it on one’s own.

Building a graphite or glass fly rod is a matter of assembly. The blank is already fabricated and finished, unlike bamboo where a rod maker truly builds the entire fly rod, blank included. And while a master rod maker can build a bamboo fly rod in 40 hours, beginning graphite or fiberglass rod makers will require this amount of time and quite possibly more.

I found that the building process literally “built” upon itself, excuse the pun. Tying that first wrap and doing it well was motivation to repeat the step with the same or better quality.

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Wrapping the rod guides was enjoyable work, and a fine beer seemed to lubricate the process quite nicely…

Certain components, like the cork grip, and stripper guides, spur one on to complete the project as a blank starts to look more like a fly rod.

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Full wells grip assembled in place with the butt end of the blank shimmed for the reel seat.

Raw materials slowly add character. One can feel the rod evolving. And then at last, the beautiful wraps cry out for varnish or epoxy – the rod blank asks for adornment.

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My fly rod benefited from the kharma that “Hemingway On Fishing” provided – the book served as a great thread tensioner…

I followed the advice of Joe Swam who recommended the use of McCloskey’s marine spar varnish for coating of the wraps. The other option was the use of a two part epoxy, which is common in the industry, but Joe prefers varnish for his bamboo rods and feels it is easier and more forgiving for a beginner, yet still makes a great finish for even an expert rod maker such as himself.

With each coat of varnish, the wraps filled and smoothed with glossy goodness. After the final and fifth coat was applied, all that was left to do was to add a custom decal. I kept my inscription pretty simple: my name, “rod maker”, and the length, weight, and action of the rod. After securing the decal, a very simple process, I applied two coats of varnish over the decal and let the rod dry adequately over a few more days.

The finished rod impressed me after a lawn casting session. Naturally, I have some bias, for what father isn’t proud of their “child”, real or otherwise. The rod handled a floating WF line just fine, but it was the way it threw an intermediate sink-tip line and a sinking tip fly line with relative ease that really caught my attention. I noted that my addition of two stripper guides (for a total of four) in place of snake guides may have given it a bit more backbone. After casting, thoughts of fishing big flies on the Susquehanna and even casting for blues and stripers in New Jersey’s Barnegat Bay, swirled in my head.

On May 24th I took my rod to the water for its baptism. Nicknamed “The Golden Bear” for its Vestal school colors of green and gold, I strung it up with an 8 weight intermediate sink tip line and waded downriver. The rod balanced perfectly in my hand.

I cast a #6 streamer across a shallow bay and loved how well I could bomb out long casts. Later I set it p with the sink tip line and worked some deeper water. I caught a number of very nice 18″+ bass that evening and returned a few days later to land a best-of-the-year fish.

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This Susquehanna River smallmouth bass nudged the 20″ measuring wrap – a promise that Hemingway’s kharma was there and would hopefully bless the rod for many more years of great fly fishing.

Rod building has bitten me hard. While I truly cherish my production fly rods, in particular my Scott, TFO, and JP Ross fly rods, among others, the feeling of building and customizing the rod as you truly want, adding touches that identify the rod as wholly your own, and then casting it, fishing it, and finally, feeling the head shake of a good fish – well no fly rod company can sell that…

 

 

 

 

Indian Summer

Posted in Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Writing with tags , , , on November 10, 2015 by stflyfisher

The Indian Summer of life should be a little sunny and a little sad, like the season, and infinite in wealth and depth of tone, but never hustled.

Henry Adams

Indian summer is a period of unseasonably warm, dry weather that sometimes occurs in autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. The US National Weather Service defines this as weather conditions that are sunny and clear with above normal temperatures, occurring late-September to mid-November, and particularly after a killing frost. Such were the conditions when I set out on what was to be my second kayak float of one of the Southern Tier’s great warmwater rivers. I had my eye on Columbus Day weekend for a while, and as it got closer, kept hoping the predicted indian Summer conditions would hold, and that the river would remain low and clear. Thankfully, it held…

I set out early with a plan to launch from the Apalachin DEC fishing access but my pick-up plans were still a little in the air. Last year’s trip had been a float of the river from the same starting point to Hickories Park in Owego, but I had found out the hard way that those last couple of miles below where I fished were nothing but slow moving river and a tough, long, and arduous paddle. So I decided to see if I could float roughly 3 miles down to the choice fishing areas and then paddle back. There were a few places where I would need to haul my kayak around faster riffles and runs, but generally I felt it could be doable.

I fished this same stretch last year and wondered if it would be as good as my last visit. That trip brought me to totally unexplored water and absolute solitude save a few recreational kayakers. The varied water in what I refer to as the “outback” made for great fly fishing and a surprise visit from a musky that inhaled a 10″ smallmouth I had on the line and, though it was not hooked, would not let go of his meal for a good 20 minutes.

The river had been through a spate of dry weather since mid-summer and the river was showing it with flows below the 1,000 CFS mark. Low water tends to concentrate the fish a bit which is a help on such a big river but it can also make for spooky fish when the water is crystal clear and the sun bright. With that in mind I focused on fishing the northern bank on the float down, hoping the shady areas would hold some bass.

The morning was chilly and foggy but it did not take long for the rising sun to burn through. I drifted past my honey hole, about a quarter mile below the bridge, figuring I could hit it on the way back if fishing wasn’t that good below. I focused my morning efforts on some shaded downfalls that had produced some nice bass on last year’s float, but this year, no one answered my casts. Perhaps the extra skinny water was the culprit, but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth for the rest of the day.

I paddled on and fished the bend in the river where weeds were prevalent adjacent to deep water and where again, last year, I had caught some nice bass. I thought for sure there would be some bass willing to play here but again, it was “no joy”.

Beyond that spot is what I now call, “the promised land”. This stretch of the river is a lot like the St. Lawrence in terms of the bedrock and boulders that make up the river bottom and shoreline. The water is deep here, yet out of nowhere, boulders and rock outcroppings loom large in the current. It is perfect smallie habitat and the home of at least one big musky. So I fished it thoroughly, and finally was rewarded for my efforts.

Love the chocolate brown coloring of this smallmouth bass.

Love the chocolate brown coloring of this smallmouth bass.

Maybe it was fly size, maybe color, but changing up to a 5″ long white deceiver I had tied for saltwater striped bass and bluefish fishing changed my fortune. Tied to a stout leader and an intermediate sink tip fly line, I cast to the shallows and stripped the fly across and through the boulders and the deep run of the river. I immediately hooked up with bass after bass, over a dozen and two of them real gems – full bodied, broad-shouldered. One of those two had a large baitfish tail protruding from its gullet, it’s belly extended noticeably. But even 12″ chunks, as I refer to them, eagerly attacked this big white streamer. And halfway through, so did a large green torpedo…

I decided to

I decided to “go big early” and fished a white deceiver, like this one, and the smallmouth loved it…

For the third time, I encountered Mr. Musky. My two previous encounters were while “bait fishing”, that is, catching a 10 – 12″ smallie on a fly and suddenly feeling it get REAL heavy. Both encounters were amazing in that the big guy on the end hung on to the “bait” for 20 minutes before finally having had enough. They were never actually hooked. This third encounter was an aggressive follow, but only as I swept the fly up and parallel to the kayak, getting ready to backcast.

Indian summer and fall splendor on the Susquehanna...

Indian summer and fall splendor on the Susquehanna…

I paddled back upriver around 2 pm and fished the shade of the southern side of the river, picking up a few nice bass and missing some more. The wind had started to blow with the warming of the day. Leaves littered the river and of course the wind blew my kayak around a bit, but I enjoyed the warmth of the afternoon and the vibrant fall colors.

I gradually worked up the river, then hit another run and riffle and got a good workout pushing my little boat home. I had passed my home pool – a favorite wading spot and the home of my largest smallmouth bass – on the way down, but on the way back I decided to fish it a bit before continuing on to the takeout. The night before I had stopped here to gauge the fishing and was smitten. I caught a large fallfish, a nice walleye, a good northern with a fat belly, and two very nice smallmouth bass. And on this afternoon, my second cast and retrieve came to an abrupt stop…

I was fast to another quality smallmouth and this bass was a fighter. Once in hand and released, I fished the rest of the pool and missed a few fish. It was beginning to get late and I still had to paddle / wade and tow my boat another quarter mile, then pack it up and head home. So I left my honey hole and towed my kayak home.

Terrific way to end a beautiful day...

Terrific way to end a beautiful day…

The drive home was as pleasant as it gets. I had enjoyed a long day on a beautiful river with not another angler in sight and enjoyed only the company of a few bald eagles, osprey, mergansers, Canada geese, and mallards.

A soft warm breeze blew through my open windows as I smoked a cigar and drove through hills painted in hues of scarlet and gold. Winter was not far off, but for now I enjoyed one last dance with summer – and a flirt with fall. Long gone were wet wading days on the river, shirt-sleeved evening slogs on late summer evenings. I felt blessed and happy for having another year of fly fishing and for having one last shot at fish before the winter snows arrived. And I could almost hear fall’s siren call to fish of all kinds – the basses, pikes, salmonoids, and trout – hastening the feed for some in advance of winter, and sending others upriver to spawn and create another life-cycle all their own.