Archive for the Flies – Local Favorites Category

The Grinch…

Posted in Flies - Local Favorites, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on December 23, 2018 by stflyfisher

I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.
Taylor Caldwell

Jack Hoffen arrived in the dark, having hiked a good mile through snow from his car. He looked down-river in the faint light of dawn and took solace in the view. The silver lining in the dark cloud that followed him was that he was the only angler on his favorite Great Lakes tributary.

It felt good to be fishing, especially without the typical crowds, but most of all because fishing always lightened his emotional load. During his most trying times he had made a point of going fishing despite the weather or conditions, as he knew he would end the day with a fresh perspective on a problem or at least with the will to face it on his feet. Today, especially, he needed to get away from his troubles, for it was Christmas Day.

The morning sky had dawned bright and clear and the sun had given Jack some relief from the bitter cold. But as morning turned to afternoon, snow squalls swept in and darkened the sky, coating the ground with yet another layer of lake-borne snow. Fringed in the white of the woods, the river ran quietly by, its sounds deadened to a soft murmur.

Jack had fished a broad riffle and deep run all morning and early afternoon and then made a move to a choke point in the river upstream where big boulders had been placed to protect a high bank from erosion. He watched the swirling waters of the eddy that the boulders formed and thought how similar his emotions had been lately. The spot had been good to him in the past but now, absent anglers, he could fish it better than he ever had. But none of the egg patterns he used earlier that day had worked and it was bothering him. He had adjusted leader length, weight, tippet size, and changed later to an indicator set-up with no luck. Even the Salmon River Gift, a favorite pattern for killing the skunk, was not drawing strikes. It was as if the steelhead and browns had taken the holiday off.

Jack opened his sling pack, searching for answers. Digging deep into his bag, he pulled out a box of woolly buggers. He had not opened the box since the spring when black sparkle buggers had been the ticket for dropback steelhead. The woolly buggers were arranged in tight, orderly rows in the box, much like the sardines he had wolfed down for lunch. He grew sad thinking about the spring and its excellent dropback fishing and how a great day on the river had ended so badly. He remembered returning home that evening, and finding the note. He grew sadder still thinking about where his life had taken him: a cold can of sardines on a lonely river on Christmas Day.

Emotions welled up while Jack looked at the box. Reality bit as hard as a steelhead taking a fly on the swing. His eyes clouded up with tears, several of which dropped into the box and onto the flies in their neat rows. And that is when Jack noticed a different color bugger emerge that had, until then, lay hidden by its black and olive box-mates. Pulling the fly out, he recognized it as a pattern a guide had him fish on the Bighorn River many years ago, in happier times. The pattern was called “The Grinch”, and for good reason: it was dressed in glorious Christmas color; red and green sparkle chenille body, red wire counter-wrap, and an olive tail accented with red flash. Maybe, he thought, this pattern was different enough to rouse a strike. Darkness was approaching as he tied on this last hope of a fly. He decided to fish it dead drift off an indicator, letting it swing as it tailed out downstream.


The Grinch (picture courtesy of East Rosebud Fly and Tackle)

Jack lobbed the rig up above the river chute and high-sticked it, watching the white indicator as it bobbed down the fast water of the chute and into the run below. Once it had swung out, he let it hang briefly in the current and repeated the process like any good steelheader would do. After a few drag-free drifts, he changed his cast so the rig would drift closer to the large boulder that formed the choke point in the river. The indicator rode the heavy water, then shot underwater as it passed the eddy formed by the boulder. Jack immediately swept his rod down and to the side and felt the heavy sponginess of a good fish. It was all he could do to recover the slack caused by the fish as it immediately reversed course and rocketed down the river. At last the line came tight and the drag brought the fight to the fore. A lengthy battle ensued up and down the pool.

Jack beached the fish on the smooth gravel bank at the tail of the pool. The buck steelhead laid there looking almost as dark as the water, with the Grinch prominently adorning the point of its kype. He removed the fly, briefly admired the fish, and then held the big steelhead in the current to revive it. Slowly its strength came back and then it was gone, back to its icy black world.

Day’s end neared now: the sun had dropped behind the hills to the west and Jack began to think about the long hike ahead of him through the deep snow of the woods. He wished he had brought his snow shoes. Before leaving the river, in a moment of charity that belied his troubles, Jack clipped the fly off and left it on a prominent flat rock at the pool tail-out. ‘The Grinch may have stolen Christmas, but this Grinch gave it back’, he thought. Perhaps some lonely, discouraged angler, like himself, would discover it. And perhaps too, it would do more than catch a steelhead on an otherwise luckless day, as it had for him.

Jack started the hike back to his car. The snow was deeper than he thought and he labored against it, breathing heavily as he lifted his legs high to move forward with each step. The sky had cleared again and the wind had dropped. He could see the stars overhead, bright pinpricks that winked at him amidst the inky black heavens. The woods was beautifully silent and still.

Jack thought about the steelhead and the fly that saved his day. The fly reminded him of  characters of Christmas stories whose lives, sad, destitute or seemingly doomed, had been saved: the Grinch’s heart had grown three sizes larger, Ebeneezer Scrooge had become a better man, and George Bailey discovered that one had no troubles who had friends. Jack could not be sure his wife would ever forgive him or even return to him, nor could he bet that his children would ever open their hearts to him again. But for the first time in a long time, Jack Hoffen looked forward to the future. Hope had come to him in the form of a fly. He had a lot of Grinches to tie before this Christmas ended.





Redfish and the value of fly fishing…

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Flies - Local Favorites, Saltwater, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , on October 19, 2018 by stflyfisher

“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.”

Thomas Paine

I awoke eager to see what the wind was doing early that morning. Looking out the back sliding glass door of our townhouse, I could see the lake behind our place was as still as a mill pond – a nice sight for a saltwater fly fisher. Even the palm fronds were still.

I made some coffee and busied myself with cleaning my line and getting my gear and flies in order. I wanted to get to the bay before the wind came up and while the light was still low on the water.

The bay was still flat when I arrived, with just a few sporadic cat’s paws on the bay’s surface. The water was cool, shocking me more so out of warmer expectations, but once in, it felt just fine as I waded to where the the salt marsh began.


I started out fishing a small pink and white clouser on an intermediate sink tip line. My 8 weight fly rod – the first fly rod I ever built – proved perfect for fishing the bay water. In a few past outings in spring and fall, I focused my fishing efforts on the deeper water of the bay – the channels, sloughs – and then on the potholes – slight depressions on the flats that sometimes harbor fish. But after dredging the depths with nothing to show for it on this morning, I decided to change the game plan and explore new bay water, well beyond where I’d ever gone.

I waded along the salt marsh grass, stepping as carefully as a blue heron stalking the shallows, scanning the water for shadows or signs of fish. I changed my fly to a small shrimpy looking pattern that cast easily and was light enough to enter the water with little splash.


The Hot Legs Foxy Gotcha – pic courtesy of

As I approached the mouth of a tidal creek, I noticed two forms slowly move out from the shoreline. I followed their movement and immediately recognized them as good-sized redfish. They didn’t appear spooked but I questioned whether it was worth a cast to them as they lazily swam out. I decided ‘what the hell’ and made a 15 foot cast the put my fly slightly ahead of them and to their right. I allowed the fly to sink a bit and gave it a twitch-strip and I was tight to a red.


The red bolted bayward and I frantically cleared the slack line and got the fish on the reel. It then swam hard in a long wide circle, swinging back towards me. It was a nice fish and had its friend swimming alongside the entire fight, apparently checking to see what all the fuss was about.

I soon slid the red up on a break in the salt marsh where there was sand. The shrimp fly was perfectly set in the corner of its mouth. Clad in hues of copper, pink, and red, I noticed even dark blue on its tail, and the unmistakable black dot as well.

With that first success in hand, I continued to stalk the salt marsh edges and saw at least half a dozen more fish. One more showed interest, but refused at the last moment.

Later as the sun rose and the wind began to come up, I made my way back to leave the bay, stopping briefly to talk with a spin fisherman who had been casting from a long pier. He had been using a popping cork rig and shrimp. The float was supposed to rattle and pop, attracting the attention of redfish to the bait. It seemed clumsy and I didn’t see that there was any way he’d catch a thing given the low clear water, the high sun, and the “spook” factor of the fish.

“Getting anything?”, he asked as he looked down from the pier. He was old, tanned, white-haired, and dressed in white sneakers, socks pulled up high, a neat T-shirt, and golf shorts, appearing more like he was running errands in town than going fishing.  “I got one nice redfish”, I said. “What are you using?,” he asked. I showed him the shrimp fly. “I’m not a lure guy” he said without a hint of disdain. “I like to use bait”.

We talked a little more and then bid each other farewell. I finished my way back to the bay access and by that time the wind was breezing up and the sun was high in the sky. I was wet from the wade but comfortably warm with the breeze taking the edge off the late-morning heat. The bay was a checkerboard with patches of light water over sandy bottom and alternating darker patches where the turtle grass grew dark green and lush.

As I approached the bay access, I met another man about my age who was relaxing on a bench while his dog ran around the bay beach. He asked me how I did and we began talking about fishing. He claimed to be a fly fisher, saying he had an 8 weight in a closet of his condo but admitted he had never thought of fishing the salt with his fly rod.

This man told me a bit about his life and his fishing adventures, which were extensive. He had owned a big center console boat and had fished the deeper offshore water of the Gulf, but only occasionally in the bay. He finally sold his boat due to the high cost of ownership and the fickle species regulations for offshore waters. He had also fished other saltwater areas, most notably the Keys, but again he had never thought to bring his fly rod along. I told him he should break that 8 weight out and give the bay a try, and maybe even the surf. But I sensed his reticence. Perhaps it was too complicated, perhaps he feared he didn’t have the skills, or maybe he didn’t believe saltwater gamefish would come to the fly.


The ride home…

So I left the bay, hiked back to the golf cart, and headed home, thinking about my experience. I was happy after a nice morning on the water, exploring new water, unique methods, and feeling good about a plan that came together. To top that, my redfish had been a “first”, hopefully to be followed by more in the years ahead on that emerald bay.

But beyond happy, I was thankful for the skills fly fishing had taught me. While no fishing is easy, catching fish with a lure is challenging, but to catch a fish on a fly is, arguably, the ultimate of fishing challenges. That challenge comes in many forms to the fly fisher, and particularly in the salt: wind and current test casting and line control, casting comes with it’s own set of technical difficulties in that lines, flies, and tackle are heavier, and fly rods are often faster action. Finding fish is dependent on a lot of new factors when compared to freshwater fly fishing: tidal changes, wind direction that can move water and vary water temperature, fog, and other environmental factors. And then there are the fish themselves. But for those who can prevail over the difficulty, fly fishing can be far more satisfying. With that satisfaction comes the confidence to keep on, and ultimately, achieve a level of effectiveness one never thought possible.

So I am thankful for redfish and, for that matter, all fish that beckon a cast. Because of them, I am a better angler.



Posted in Flies - Local Favorites, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on July 6, 2018 by stflyfisher

Youth has no age.

Pablo Picasso

I arrived at the post office parking lot in Lisle and parked my car as I normally do, off to the very far corner of the lot facing the flood dike, a mountainous wall of green. Beyond the big berm that protected the village lay the river, flowing timelessly, emptying itself to bigger rivers downstream, it’s brother the Chenango, and its bigger brother, the mighty Susquehanna. Soon enough a mini-van pulled up alongside and 3 happy kids burst out the doors. I greeted them and asked the first, Ben, the boy twin of 15, if he knew what river we were fishing. His response was immediate, “the Tioughnioga”, pronouncing it correctly to my surprise. Then I asked him to spell it, which he did almost as easily. I was impressed…

It took a while to string up the 4 rods; one each for Ben, Corrine (twin sister to Ben), Bodie, younger brother, and Mike, father and coworker. I searched a streamer / nymph fly box and tied on what I thought might work for the smallmouth bass and fallfish that called the river home. I chose a variety of nymphs and streamers, including the Carey Special, tied by fly fishing friend Eric Tomosky.


One version of a Carey Special. Picture courtesy of fellow fly fishing blogger, PlanetTrout.

Soon we were off on our way to the river, crossing the flood plain, then climbing up the tall dike bank and stopping at its top to survey the river below, moving clear and happy. Mike’s kids then scrambled down the grassy bank, with Mike and I following them to the  river’s edge.

The river edge was a high clay bank, a man’s height to the water, steep and abrupt as if it was guarding the river from easy access. The bank was the result of years of spring floods cutting the mud and clay of the flood plain. Those floods had scoured and cut the bottom to its bedrock over time, creating a long deep pool. As we spied its depths, we could see big carp cruising up river, then sliding back into the murky depths of the pool, like they were playing a game in the current. Here and there, smallmouth bass, walleye, and fallfish swam about, and for all of these fish it was tempting to cast to them but experience had taught me to skip the fishing there for now. The area was completely void of trees and was open to the bright sun, making all the pool’s residents very wary, and rightfully so with eagles and ospreys around. The setting sun would beckon us back when the time had come.

Just below the bridge the pool tailed out and ended with the start of a riffle. We crossed there to fish from the far bank where it was shallow and forgiving to hapless waders such as kids may be. On the way down-river the kids busied themselves with the life of the river. Ben immediately caught a crawfish with his bare hands and examining it, patiently unpricked the crustacean’s hold on his fingers with the patience of Job and without so much as an “ouch.” The little crawdad was a mix of colors – dark olive and faint orange. As we waded across the rock-strewn shallows, they scattered by the dozen like cockroaches do to a newly lit light.

The riffle we crossed fed into a run that cut against the opposite bank. This piece of water had always been rich with small bass, fallfish, and walleye. When I first fished it, I became almost agitated by the plenty of small fish. It was one of those places that screamed bigger fish but several years of summer and fall fishing had never produced anything larger than 10″, so I deemed this spot beginner’s water, but never ceased to fish it quickly and thoroughly on the way to the deep pool below it.

We waded in at the head of the run, spread out, and began casting. I left my rod at the bank and moved around Mike and his kids, giving pointers, untangling lines on occasion, trying to be a good “guide” and hoping my advice might produce some fish. For whatever reason, the smallmouth bass were on vacation that day but fallfish and small walleyes filled the void. Mike caught a few, then Corinne caught one but Bodie and Ben were fish-less.


Mike and his kids lined up fishing the Tioughnioga.

While Corrine and Bodie were enthusiastic, it was Ben who stood out as one who really enjoys fly fishing. I watched him cast apart from the others. His casting stroke showed promise. He’d look up as he cast, even watching his back-cast. His determination was admirable, especially with a fly rod and line that was, in my opinion, holding him back from improving. At one point I tried casting his rod and found it flat. The line itself seemed like level line and the rod was slow and awkward. At that point I picked up my own rod and asked him if he wanted to try fishing the deeper pool below.

We waded down below the rest of the group, moving down the river a few steps at a time, casting with each few steps. I would cast and hand Ben my rod, instructing him how to strip the fly, how to point the rod tip low at the fly, and how to keep in contact with the fly. He picked this up quickly. We waded down into the deep pool where the week before, as well as many times before that, I had caught large channel cats.


I had wished Ben could have felt the tug of a nice channel cat on the fly rod…

I wanted badly for him to feel the solid stop of the fly on the strip, or better yet, a jolting take, and then the good hard “tug of war” that catfish play so well, but it was not to be that evening.


The deep hole where I have caught many channel cats on the fly. This is leech water too!

As the sun set, I decided it was time to make a move upriver to the deep pool above the bridge where earlier, we had watched large carp, smallmouth bass, and walleye flirt in the current. I moved up there with Ben in tow. Corrine and Bodie followed, with Mike in the rear. Fishing from the far shore did not produce anything, so we waded back down at the tail of the pool, crossed, and walked back up the steep bank where we could have a better look at what was going on.

The fish were still there. At least a dozen big carp were milling about, some displaying feeding postures as they ransacked the bottom with their rubbery mouths. The smallmouth were there too, often times trailing the feeding carp waiting for a morsel the carp’s bottom carousing might stir up to drift downriver, hapless and helpless – an easy meal. And we could see fallfish and walleye as well. So we began to cast.

Mike started picking up small walleye here and there. They seemed to like the movement of the large black hackle on his Carey Special. I surmised it looked leechy in the water, and no walleye can pass up the seductive dance of a swimming leech. Ben, Bodie, and Corrine all tried, but with time Bodie and Corrine seemed to have had enough, and wandered off back to the car to change out of their wet clothes. Ben was relentless and his fervor grew more intense with every walleye Mike caught. Mike would hand his own rod to Ben but the magic seemed to vanish, only to come back when Mike cast again.

I was casting for a shot at the carp. Again, if I could entice a take, I wanted to give Ben a chance to feel the power of these fish. I cast and cast, trying best to lead the feeders but sometimes forgetting to take into account the drop of the steep bank. Eventually I got better and at last got a nice follow from a carp. It pursued my crayfish imitation with serious interest, but I ran out of water. I let the fly go to the bottom and the carp nosed down at it but just short of sucking it up, turned away. Smart fish, they are.

We continued fishing as dusk came. Corrine and Bodie returned from the car, Corrine pointing to a fat leech on her leg. I laughed as Mike continued to fish. I had warned him days before our trip that without waders, one could pick a leech up in the muddier parts of the river. He later explained the kids were used to them from their vacations at big backwoods lake in Maine. Indeed, Corrine seemed unfazed as Mike tried to remove it. It was firmly attached and I slipped my hemostats under the head and finally yanked it off without so much as a word from Corrine, tough girl that she was.

We decided to give up the ghost as the light faded. Back at the cars we said our goodbyes. The kids were in Mike’s minivan as fast as they had bust out of it earlier that evening.


Looking downriver on the Tioughnioga as dusk approaches. The native American Indians that called the Southern Tier home named it to mean “meeting of waters”. Difficult to pronounce, the name is as beautiful as the river and its surroundings.

Driving home, I paralleled the Tioughnioga through the village of Whitney point, passed the Chenango in Binghamton and then crossed the Susquehanna as I sped along Rt 17. My mind relived the hours past – walking down to the river bank with the anticipation of a kid on Christmas, seeing the great carp as they held in the current of the river, watching young Ben eyeing his back-cast and beginning to form loops, drinking up the enthusiasm Mike’s kids brought to the river. I realized then how important it is to fish with kids, even if just once in a while. For heading home that night, I was young again…

Fly fishing for albies with Fishhead Greg…

Posted in Fishing Reports, Flies - Local Favorites, Gear, Saltwater, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on October 29, 2017 by stflyfisher

Can you fish tomorrow morning?  It’s lights out albie fishing on the fly. 

email from Greg Cudnik, “Fishhead Greg”

The email was simple and to the point: did I want to go fly fishing for bait-busting albies? Is a frog’s ass watertight? Does a bear shit in the woods?

I had received Greg (aka “Fishhead Greg”) Cudnik’s email just before I left for the Jersey shore to see my parents. Greg owns Fisherman’s Headquarters on Long Beach Island (Ship Bottom, NJ), a well-known bait and tackle store and this year he got his Captain’s license, allowing him to take anglers on fishing charters.

Looking for a chance to capitalize on the fantastic fall fishing of the New Jersey shore, I checked in with him about a possible fly fishing charter. My first inquiry found him up in Montauk, chasing the legendary striper/bluefish/albie blitz. He said he would get back to me, but after hearing that, I figured he might be out of action for a while. Greg is, after all, a fishing addict as his fishing moniker attests. So I packed my salty fly gear nonetheless, figuring I could shore fish Barnegat Bay, the inlet, or the surf during my visit to my parents. And as it would turn out, that was a very good thing, for on the way down, shore-bound, I got his email – “lights out fly fishing for albies” – and it’s game on. I was anxious to fish for a species I’d long ago heard was tailor-made for salt water fly rodders…


Call him what you want – little tunny, fat albert, albie, or more properly, false albacore – he’s fast, powerful, and will give your backing a good airing in seconds…

The false albacore goes by many names—little tunny, fat albert, albie—but whatever it may be called, this species is prized for its blistering runs and never-give-up fight. One of the smallest members of the Scombridae family, the false albacore is not a “true” tuna (genus Thunnus) but is more closely related to the mackerels. The species’ streamlined body, powerful tail, and pelagic lifestyle make it pound-for-pound one very powerful game fish, especially to light tackle enthusiasts like fly anglers. Classified as a pelagic, false albacore prefer relatively warm water and spend much of their lives in inshore waters, making them very accessible to anglers, especially in autumn. They can be found wherever baitfish congregate—in inlets, around jetties, and sandbars. Like other fish that feed in schools, false albacore will drive bait to the surface or into shore in order to concentrate the food. Albies lack a swim bladder so they must be in constant motion, which explains their phenomenal swimming speed and power.


Captain Greg Cudnik with a “fat albert” on the fly (pic courtesy of Greg Cudnik).

I met Greg at the marina before 6 am. It was still dark and the stars dotted the ink-black morning sky like so many glittering diamonds. I dressed in my foul weather gear and broke my rods and tackle out while Greg readied his 21 foot Parker center console for action. His boat proved to be a great sport fishing machine with an especially large and unobstructed bow that was perfect for fly casting.

Greg brought the 150 Yamaha to life and we slid out of the marina and cruised slowly towards Barnegat Inlet. In the darkness, I rigged my rods – a 9 foot 8 weight with an intermediate sinking tip and a 9 foot 9 weight with full intermediate line. The game plan was to fish the north jetty of the inlet while we waited for signs of bird play outside the inlet.


An aerial view of Barnegat Inlet. The small town of Barnegat Light is to the bottom left in the picture above – the North Jetty is to the top right – with the bay entrance to the left and the ocean to the right.

Barnegat Inlet connects Barnegat Bay with the Atlantic Ocean. It separates Island Beach State Park and the Barnegat Peninsula from Long Beach Island. Watching over the inlet at the northern end of Long Beach Island is “Old Barney” the historic Barnegat Lighthouse.


Old Barney, standing watch over Barnegat Inlet (pic courtesy of Greg Cudnik).

The inlet gets its name from Dutch settlers who in 1614 named it “Barendegat,” or “Inlet of the Breakers”. The inlet can be extremely dangerous when ebbing or flooding tides run counter to high winds, building the heavy seas the Dutch must have observed before naming it.

Once we got out into the inlet, Greg nosed his boat within 30 feet of the end of the visible part of the north jetty. The rest of the jetty leading out to open ocean is submerged rock. The constant swirling and crashing of the sea over this section of the jetty creates a cauldron of froth that is known to attract stripers and blues all year. I fly fished at first, casting a streamer into the froth, allowing it to sink, then stripping it back, but no one seemed to be home. Greg had me switch up to a light saltwater spinning outfit using first an imitation eel and then a white bucktail with a hot orange plastic tail. After a number of casts I hooked up and landed a nice “cocktail” blue. Not long after, I felt a good bump and retrieved my bucktail with most of the tail bitten clean off. For the unknowing, bluefish and plastics don’t mix too well but as Greg added, at least we’d gotten rid of the skunk.

As the eastern sky began to glow orange, bird play started outside the inlet. At first, the numbers of birds were small and their concentrations, weak. Greg said the seabirds, including brown pelicans, were searching for bait. He continuously spied the horizon for denser groups of birds and sure enough, as the sun broke the horizon and the sky lightened with the new-found dawn, birds wheeled in bigger and tighter groups. Then they began diving, a sign that it was time to move in – but not recklessly. According to Greg, many anglers are apt to drive their boats right into birds and fish, not realizing how that can put the blitz down. We parked a bit outside the developing fray and Greg had me blind cast the area. The fishfinder was lit up with tons of bait.

I threw a “deadly dick” metal for a while – then Greg had me switch up to a white plastic. He had me experiment with retrieves, “burning it” at times, letting it pause, and even jigging it as I retrieved. I worked the water column as best I could and on one retrieve saw what looked like a boil not far off the stern. I continued my retrieve only to have an albie flash at it right at the boat, then take it solidly and dive. The drag on the spinning reel screamed and I was on. I was at once amazed at the sheer power and speed of these saltwater bullets. I’d gain a little on the fish only to have it take off on blistering run after run. Eventually, we had the fish boat-side, and Greg deftly tailed it…


My first albie… (pic courtesy of Greg Cudnik)

This first albie was followed not long after with another on the same soft plastic lure.


Another nice albie on the spinning rod. About this time of the morning the fish began to feed on the surface (pic courtesy of Greg Cudnik).

By this time the sun was up and the surface action began to improve. The albacore were driving bait up from the depths and slashing through the confused schools from all directions. Birds wheeled just feet above, hovered, and dove. With two albies tallied, Greg said it was time to break out my fly rod…

Greg had me tie on a unique fly that has been garnering a lot of attention in the northeast saltwater fly fishing world. The fly is the innovative design of local fly rodder and fly designer, Bob Popovichs. Greg felt the fly was a perfect imitation of the “white bait” the ablies were chasing.


The “Fleye Foil” fly Greg had me use was a perfect match for “white bait” in the water. This fly looked great in the water, cast well, and never fouled (pic courtesy of Greg Cudnik).

I tied this fly to 15 lb tippet off a 6 foot leader on my full intermediate 9 weight line. As the sun came up and the fishing exploded on the abundant bait, the wind began to blow and the sea took on a bit of a chop, but Greg did a terrific job positioning me for optimum casting, given the stiff breeze.

I experimented with retrieves and found that sometimes allowing the fly to sink a bit worked better than stripping fast through the blitz. This was harder than one might imagine. With fish blasting through the water, it was very tempting to strip fast. My first albie ate the fly with just one strip after the drop. The take was solid and fast and it was all I could do to clear the line and get the fish on the reel. Check out a short clip Greg took as I hooked up and began to fight the fish…


The first of 3 ablies on the fly. I lost two more as well. The false albacore just might be the ultimate gamefish for the saltwater fly fisher (pic courtesy of Greg Cudnik).

Two more albies followed and I also lost another two fish after brief hook-ups.

As late-morning approached, the blitz seemed to settle down. Fish would pop up here and there. When they did show up they were not around long. Boat traffic may have contributed to the slow-down. Indeed, we observed a lot of fishermen driving right into some blitzes. Most anglers were spin fishing – a much less taxing way of reaching pods of fish. Greg noted many of them were throwing metals far larger than the baitfish the albies were feeding on and the lack of hook-ups for these anglers backed his theory.

Research I’ve done on angling for false albacore indicates that fly fishing is often the “high hook” method of fishing for them. Albies, like most members of the tuna and mackerel family, have excellent eyesight. When they are focused on eating one food item, anything that isn’t the same size, color and profile will be totally ignored and only a near-perfect match will score a strike. This favors fly-fishermen, who can match the color and diminutive size of almost any baitfish.

While we fished, Greg did his best to avoid the “run and gun” game. He’s fished enough days where sitting and letting the fish come to you was far more effective than chasing. The key seemed to be locating the boat in an area of action and then waiting for the schools to pass by.

Anyone interested in this form of fly fishing should gear up with an 8 to 10 weight saltwater fly rod. I found my 9 weight to be perfect. The action of the rod should be medium-fast at minimum with fast being a better choice. While the fall can be warm and the sea almost calm at times, the opposite can be true as well, and this fishing is truly open water fishing. So a stiffer action helps combat windy conditions. Also keep in mind that while casting at long distances is not always the case, you will cast a lot. For anglers used to lighter freshwater

A saltwater-rated fly reel with a good disc drag is also needed as these fish will quickly peel line off well into the backing. Multiple reels spooled with floating, intermediate, intermediate sink tip, and sink tip fly lines will address a variety of fishing conditions. If I had to go with just one line, I’d go with a full intermediate line, preferably clear, as these lines will get the fly down beneath potentially choppy seas. You’ll also want a selection of tapered fluorocarbon leaders rated from 20 lbs down to 12 lbs. Tippet should range from 20 lbs down to 10 lbs. As previously mentioned, albies have excellent eyesight. They can be finicky. Bite guards are not necessary with albacore, however, bluefish can be mixed in with these fish at times, so you might want to have at least some heavier mono available (30 to 50 lbs) just in case.

Fly choice should match the hatch but a good selection of clousers, deceivers, and the foil flies mentioned earlier will typically do the trick. Colors should also match the prevailing bait but silver, white, pink, light tan and light olive will work well in most situations.


The Alba-Clouser is an excellent example of a clouser tied specifically for false albacore. This pattern uses synthetic fibers for toughness and flash. Note the light pink and white blend and the sparse use of material. (pic courtesy of

While fishing from surf and jetty is one way of getting into albies, this fishing is best done from a small boat. Hiring a licensed captain is a great way to get the access to these incredible fish. If fishing from a small open boat, dress for the weather. A good set of fishing bibs, a foul weather jacket, and boots will help shield you from the effects of wind and water. Underneath, it’s best to layer up in fall. The weather can turn on a dime and the wind and water can make a mild day seem very cold. A hat with a good visor and sunglasses are also key with the sunglasses serving double duty: better vision into the water and eye protection from the sun and errant hooks! Lastly, anglers without sea legs might want to prepare for sea sickness ahead of time. Small boats will move quite a bit in a sea.

I’ll end this post with a tribute to Captain Greg Cudnik for doing a masterful job guiding me for some awesome albie fishing. Greg was thoroughly prepared, organized, and had a solid game plan for the day before we set out on the water. His fishing skill and knowledge was absolutely top-notch.

The mark of a great guide or captain is truly recognized at the end of a day fishing. For me, it was in that good tired feeling from fishing hard, the joy in attaining a fresh perspective on the amazing opportunities for fly fishing in the salt, the gaining of new-found knowledge, and lastly, the capture of so many memories of a deeply bent rods, screaming drags, and the still-present rocking motion from a day on the water. Above all though, it’s the renewed passion one gets to get out and do it again. See you on the water soon, Greg!





The week ahead in fly fishing: April 24, 2107

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Flies - Local Favorites, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on April 25, 2017 by stflyfisher

The last few weeks have been a roller coaster of high water events. The Southern Tier has certainly received a lot of rain, and in combination with saturated ground from previous snow melt, local creeks, streams, and rivers have all been full to overflowing. According to NOAA data, Binghamton is at 16.74″ of precipitation versus a historical norm of roughly 10″ for this time of year. So yes, it’s been a wet one. And Binghamton claimed the “snowiest city” award this year with 135.2″ total, edging out Syracuse. All of that is good for the fishies, especially after last year’s severe drought.

Fly shop talk: I recently watched a video on David Magnum, a fly fishing guide from Destin, Florida. David is addicted to Tarpon – 120 days of his season are focused on fly fishing for these brutes. The video reminded me that often in life, the enemy of the best is the good. In other words, rather than fly fishing the seasons, maybe one should focus on one fish species? One of the guides narrating the video talks about guides who pursue what’s biting for their clients, versus “fisherman guides” who will go all out for the targeted species even at the risk of a fish-less day. David Magnum “…dedicates his life to it, to one species – tarpon – and for him being hungry, and always wanting more, that makes him a better guide, and I think if you do that for 20 years or however long, when that’s all you think about is that one certain species 24/7, I think you will become better…”

Think about your own fly fishing and watch this video. Is the better fisherman narrow and deep, or wide and shallow? And what do you want your angling legacy to be?

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

Great Lakes / Finger Lakes tributaries: Flows on the Salmon River are finally being dropped down to safe wadeable levels…

slmon river

The Douglaston Salmon Run is reporting pretty good fishing, overall. Water temperatures are holding at in the mid to upper 40’s and with flows down wading is better. Anglers in the lower river are hooking up with egg patterns, beads, and nymphs. Some smallmouth bass are starting to show up as well. The fish are mainly dropbacks with a few bright fish in the mix.

Whitakers is also reporting good fishing with the majority of anglers getting into some fish. Drop backs are scattered throughout the river from top to bottom. The mid to upper section of the river is also holding spawning fish in and around the gravel areas. For those anglers who are fly fishing, swinging streamers with sinking leaders or egg patterns and nymphs under a strike indicator have been the most productive. Anglers are also reporting having good luck at some of the smaller local tributaries.

Suggested patterns:

  • Wiggle stone in blue, peacock, chart, pink. size 10
  • Steelhead stone in purple, red, orange. size 8
  • Rusher nymph in blue, purple, chart, red. size 10
  • Steelhead hammer in blue, black, red, chart. size 10
  • Steak-n-eggs in chart, pink, orange. size 10
  • Black flashback nymph in size 8.
  • Sucker spawn in cream, white, peach, blue. size 8
  • Glo-Bugs in chart, oregon cheese, steelhead orange, egg. size 10

Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone reports that just as the lake is rising again after last week’s deluge and will wind up higher than it was before. It is already as high as it has been over the past two weeks.  There is some MASSIVE debris floating around. There are some monster logs floating around up north of Long Point. Expect tricky if not impossible launching at Taughannock. ALL LAKES ARE LIKELY HIGH NOW AND MAY BE VERY MUDDY IN AREAS. Skaneateles Lake is usually the least affected by heavy rainfall. Here’s John’s lake-by-lake report:

  • Cayuga Lake:  Lake trout jigging is good off of Long Point.  Salmon fishing was returning to top-notch form and then the rain came…
  • Seneca Lake:  Fishing should be fair to good for landlocked salmon and brown trout.  Lake trout jigging was very slow over the weekend of the 1st/2nd.
  • Keuka Lake:  Lake trout and yellow perch fishing should be good here.
  • Owasco Lake:  Lake trout fishing should be good here. Perch fishing is very good.
  • Skaneateles Lake:  Yellow perch fishing is in full swing. Bonus bass and lakers are in the mix. Now’s the time for top notch rainbow trout (with some Landlocked salmon) on the fly or on jigs.

Catskill Rivers: The West Branch Angler is reporting that flows are still but dropping at a slow but steady rate.  The West Branch is still too high for safe wading. All of the rivers are very clear and the streamer fishing has been pretty good and consistent throughout the system.  We saw quite a few bugs yesterday on all rivers but the fish are still a bit slow to look up.  If fishing, you will see rising fish but many are rising one or two times and then are done.  So, you have to be ready for any opportunity and get the fly over the fish quickly within a minute or so.  With this weeks warming temps we are anticipating the dry fly fishing to become more consistent and we should start to see more bugs every day.

Ken Tutalo of Baxter House Fly Fishing Outfitters reports that this weekend saw an interesting mix of weather conditions on the upper Delaware. Saturday was a tough day, it was windy, cold and winter like. Sunday was a beautiful spring day, with sun, warm weather and light winds which made for a great day on the water. This time of year sun and overnight lows are very connected to water temperatures and trout activity. Although, Sunday seemed to provide ideal conditions for great early season dry fly activity, Saturday night’s cold temperatures (below freezing) prevented the river from really coming to life. Over the weekend steady rising fish were found, but the activity was brief. Both days saw decent bug activity that was mostly ignored by the fish. This was because of cold water temps and wind. The cold water makes the fish lethargic, they really don’t have to eat much when the water is under 45°. It is still early season in the Catskills. However, the system is ready to pop. We are seeing more bugs every day. Expect to see solid dry fly activity as soon as weather conditions stay sunny for a few days.

The Delaware River Club is that streamers are still catching fish and hendricksons, blue quills, and black caddis are about.  The early hatches can be a bit sporadic in the beginning as they grow so be patient out there looking for risers.

Hendrickson – #12 – 14 – Ephemerella subvaria
Blue Quill – #16 – Paraleptophlebia. adaptiva
Quill Gordon – #14 – Epeorus pluralis
Blue Wing Olives – #18 – Baetis sp.
Little Black Caddis – #18-20 – Chimarra sp.
Tiny Black Stonefly – #18 – Capniidae sp.
Early Brown and Black Stoneflies – #14 – 16 – Taeniopteryx spp.

Local creeks: Local creeks were looking very good before last weeks heavy rains but now are very full and somewhat murky.


Looking upstream on the upper East Branch of Owego Creek…

Water is still cold but the warm sunny days are bringing the bugs out – small mayflies and even some caddis. Stocking continues. Keep streamers handy but also have a nice selection of nymphs, sets, and dries handy.

Ponds: Ponds are clear of ice and slowly starting to warm. Fishing will remain slow until we have a good string of warmer sunny days and nightly lows climb.

Fly fishing events: Here’s a summary of upcoming events:

  • The Al Hazzard chapter of TU is holding its Annual River Clean-up on Saturday, April 29 from 9 am to noon at the Fireman’s Park in Deposit. It’s suggested to bring work gloves and boots. All volunteers can help themselves to coffee and donuts at 9 am and then hot dogs and hamburgers at noon. Bring your fishing gear and enjoy an afternoon of fly fishing after serving the river right!
  • The Twin Tiers Five Rivers chapter of FFI will hold its May meeting on Monday, May 1st at 7 pm. Henry Ramsey will be presenting, “Matching and Fishing the Sulphur Hatch”. Henry will teach on how to fish the sulfur hatch and what flies to use. The various species of mayflies characterized by fly fishers as sulfurs are very prolific in our area and in Pennsylvania. They provide local anglers many opportunities to catch trout on the nymph, emerger, dry fly, and spinner patterns that duplicate those insects. This presentation will go into the various stages of these insects’ lives and the imitations Henry uses to fish them. Henry is our third co-author of the new Keystone Fly Fishing book. He is an extremely innovative and talented fly tier and speaker. He also co-authored Matching Major Eastern Hatches, which catalogs many of his favorite fly patterns. His tying work has been featured in several publications including the Art of Angling Journal; The Game Journal; Fly Fisherman; and the Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide. He is a contract fly designer for Umpqua Feather Merchants and is a member of the Daiichi Hook and Regal Vise Pro Staffs. If you want to catch more trout this year on sulfurs, you won’t want to miss this presentation. Prior to his presentation, Henry will be tying one or more of his patterns. Also at the May meeting the chapter will be holding its Musky Fly Raffle, raffling off the Flathead Sucker Musky Streamer shown in the Fly of the Month write-up in last month’s Newsletter. This is the actual fly that Joe Goodspeed tied at our March meeting. If you are a musky fisherman you will certainly want to have this fly in your box. Raffle tickets will go for $5 per ticket and will be sold during our May meeting.
  • Although still a few weeks away, the Twin Tiers Five Rivers chapter of FFI is starting to plan their annual trip to the Cohocton River. This trip is usually quite productive, with fresh-stocked browns added just a few weeks prior to our outing. The trip is scheduled for Saturday, May 6, 2017 and is being coordinated by Matt Towner. If you are going please contact Matt at 607-542-0285 or, as enough food needs to be purchased for all who attend. The trip will depart from Corning Wegmans @ 9:00 AM. We usually start fishing in Avoca near the King farm and lunch will be held at the picnic area there. Once we arrive, the group will usually disperse from there up or down river to everyone’s favorite fishing spots. A few places even hold native brook trout that always put up a good fight. There are usually quite a few caddis to be found on the surface in early May, so be sure to include those in the flies that you bring
  • The Eastern Waters Council of IFFF, parent organization of the BC Flyfishers and Twin Tiers Five Rivers chapter, is having a contest to bring in new members, called “Giving the Gift Of Membership”. The contest is to encourage current members to buy an IFFF membership as a gift to a fly fishing friend, fishing buddy, or family member. You will be entered in a raffle for a new Sage Rod and Reel. To enter the contest, call Kat Mulqueen (406-222-9369 X106) at IFFF headquarters, tell her you are from the BCFF chapter or TTFR chapter, Eastern Waters Council and that you want to participate in the Giving the Gift of Membership. You will need to provide the giftee name, address and email and pay for their membership. There is also a prize for the club that brings in the most new members. You will be helping your buddy, your Club and the IFFF, and you will be eligible to win an awesome new rod and reel! The contest ends May 1st.

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

Quiet weather and clear skies look to dominate the local weather until early Tuesday morning. On Tuesday, a low pressure system that’s working northward up the East Coast could push some moisture into our area with northeasterly winds, especially in the morning on Tuesday.

A separate low-pressure system then looks to stroll through the Great Lakes on Thursday, bringing with it a cold front that could bring some more rain showers and even a few thunderstorms across the Twin Tiers.

The same can also be said for Friday, except instead of a cold front drifting through our area, the warm front from a third low-pressure system could waft across our area, perhaps providing enough warmth, moisture, and instability for a few more showers and storms Friday and into Saturday.



BC Flyfishers “simply tie” with guide flies

Posted in Flies - Local Favorites, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on April 6, 2017 by stflyfisher

The BC Flyfishers (BCFF) chapter of IFFF just completed another innovative fly tying class. But unlike the previous two classes the chapter has offered, this one focused on very simple flies. Fly tying, after all, doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, or arduous and time-consuming. And contrary to what some might think, the best flies are simple in design and less than perfectly imitative. These flies are often termed “guide flies”. Why, you may ask?

killer bugs

Frank Sawyer’s Killer Bug is an example of an extremely simple fly that was designed to catch greyling in English streams. The BCFF Guide Fly Tying class included a U.S. version of this fly, called the Utah Killer Bug.

In order to be effective, guides must be efficient. The rigs they tie for clients must work, and the flies used must catch fish for all clients, even for those with little to no fly fishing experience. While a guide can’t promise fish, repeated trips with poor results will mean less referrals and less income. As is said with any kind of business; no margin – no mission. So guide flies make for quick, inexpensive ties that catch fish. And the BC Flyfishers last tying class focused exclusively on these fly fishing marvels.

The Guide Flies fly tying class consisted of four weekly tying “chapters”, each taught by different tiers: John Trainor (BCFF board member and local angler), Tim Barrett (BCFF board member and NY State Guide), Joe Cambridge (Local angler and author), and Kevin Gilroy (Local angler and commercial tier). The classes ranged from a refresher on tying basics to tying simple nymphs, wets, streamers, and a few more involved dry flies. In addition to the lead fly tiers for each class, up to seven helpers – BCFF members with fly tying experience – were on hand to assist each participant with tying issues.

Week One, led by John Trainor, started with a refresher on tying basics that included starting the thread on the hook, pinch wraps, dubbing techniques, and whip finishing. Along with the basics was a primer on nymph guide flies. The featured fly for this class was the Frenchie. Derived from the Pheasant tail, The Frenchie is used in competition nymphing and is a great guide fly because it is fast to tie. It typically sports a hot spot and sometimes a collar, as shown below:


“The Frenchie”

Other patterns tied in the class were Walt’s Worm (a classic), Ackourey’s Nymph (Joe Ackourey is a PA guide), and the Utah killer Bug.

utah killer bug

The Utah Killer Bug

Week Two, led by Tim Barrett, featured some proven patterns that are fast to tie and are used not only by guides, but in competition fly fishing as well. Some are modified versions of flies that have been simplified so many can be tied in an hour’s time. The featured fly was Tim Barrett’s favorite, Tim’s Simpupa. This fly originally is tied with a soft hackle collar but for simplicity’s sake, the hackle can be substituted with a coarsely dubbed collar or peacock herl,  as shown below.


Tim’s Simpupa

Also included was another of Tim’s favorite fish-catcher’s – The Turd. The Turd imitates a variety of stoneflies or can be fished as an attractor. The pattern’s rubber legs seem to be a good trigger for fish.


The Turd. Tim Barrett likes to tie in a hot spot collar below the bead and use differently colored or finished beads, his favorite being black. The chenille body color can also be varied.

Tim also demonstrated tying Tim’s Carpet Fly, Doppelganger, and Glass-O–Wine – all great nymph patterns.

Week Three, led by local fly fishing legend Joe Cambridge, focused on tying soft hackle flies and one streamer pattern. Cambridge started his class with soft hackles, a favorite fly type of his, and in his opinion, very underrated. Cambridge was first introduced to soft hackles by an uncle while fly fishing in the UK. Like most people who first see these sparsely tied flies, Cambridge dismissed their effectiveness but brought some back with him to the states at his uncle’s urging. He stashed the tin of flies in his vest but never touched them until he encountered a fish-less day on a Catskill river. As Joe tells it, fish were rising everywhere and refusing EVERYTHING he threw at them. He then thought of his uncle’s soft hackles and figured “what do I have to lose.” The trout jumped these sparsely tied flies with abandon and he was sold forevermore on their effectiveness.

Soft hackles are simple but can be a bit more challenging to tie. They are generally nothing more than silk thread, dubbing in some cases, and hackle. And they can be fished in a variety of ways.

Joe’s last fly was a streamer that he considers absolutely deadly on his home water – the Finger Lakes trbis. The Fatal Attraction, shown below, is actually a Don Blanton pattern that originates on the West Coast.

fatal attraction

In the last class, Week Four, the class was introduced to some very fishy dry flies, courtesy of Kevin Gilroy, a commercial fly tier. From the classic Red Quill to Kelly Galloup’s Butch Caddis…


Galloup’s Butch Caddis (courtesy of

…all of the patterns tied belong in every serious angler’s fly box. One featured fly, the Sparkle Dun, is similar to the famous Comparadun. This fly has had its share of success and can be tied in several variations to simulate different types of bugs.


The Sparkle Dun

So there you have it: take four weekly sessions of learning to tie guide flies, add 4 top-notch fly tying teachers, instructional material and videos, pre-made tying kits for each of 16 fly patterns, and spend 16 hours at the vise practicing, and what does one get? 19 happy fly tiers with a new perspective on fly tying; good fish-catching flies can be cheap, fast and easy to tie, AND effective…

fly tying

Happy Guide Fly graduates…

The week ahead in fly fishing: March 13, 2107

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Flies - Local Favorites, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on March 12, 2017 by stflyfisher

March continues to roar of winter, even with the official start of spring less than two weeks away. After a warm spell last week, temps again dropped to single digit lows Friday night and have carried on through the weekend. And lake effect snow, brought on by high winds, hit the Southern Tier along with the cold. Ponds now have skim ice on them and creeks, though still swollen and high, could build up some shelf ice based on the current forecast. The cold weather gives anglers a good excuse to break out their gear in anticipation of spring fishing and go through it thoroughly. It also pays to re-fill those spring and summer fly boxes while the siren call to hit the water is not so strong…


Anglers who attended one of the BCFF chapter’s fly tying classes learned how to tie some great guide patterns. Now’s the time to fill those spring fly boxes! (Picture courtesy of Nick DiNunzio)

Fly shop talk: “I think the best teacher is the stream…” – this is just one of many gems I’ve mined from the book, Trout Tactics by Joe Humphreys. Humphreys is a well-known fly fly fisherman from Pennsylvania who taught fly fishing at Penn State and who has authored several books on a sport he has participated in for much of his long life. I’ve just started the book, but reading it has reminded me of something I’ve neglected over the last few years: reading good books on fly fishing. Continuous improvement is important to any fly angler looking to increase skill levels on the water. Before one can improve, knowledge is needed. After knowledge is gained, application of that knowledge through practice develops skill. To be a better angler,commit to gaining knowledge through reading good fly fishing books and then applying it on the water.


Joe Humphreys holds the Pennsylvania fly fishing state record brown trout that he caught at night in 1977 on Fishing Creek. The big brown stretched the tape to 34″. Humphreys pursued the fish for 3 years before finally hooking it.

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

Great Lakes / Finger Lakes tributaries:

Fishing conditions have made fishing the Salmon River and other GL tribs difficult and reports are pretty poor as a result. The bitter cold, wind, snow and high river levels have put a damper on the fishing for sure. Some anglers have had success with steelhead on some of the smaller local tributaries.

Related to Great Lakes trib fishing is the following from the DEC’s recent report-out held at the Rochester Institute of Technology. According to the DEC’s 2016 Fishing Boat Survey, fishing on the lake for Chinook salmon, lake trout and Atlantic salmon was good, but “fishing success for coho salmon, brown trout and rainbows was relatively poor.” Fishing for lake trout was reported as “stable.” Chinook salmon fishing on the lake this year was very good at the western end between the months of May through August, and during July for all areas of the lake. The average length of the fish were shorter than previous peak years, but on average were larger in girth. Anglers experienced a rebound of the fall fishing on the lake’s tributaries last year after a subpar 2015 season. The total amount of fish stocked in New York’s waters of Lake Ontario by the DEC in 2016 included about 1.88 million Chinook salmon, 316,000 Coho, 662,170 Rainbow trout, 156,270 Atlantic salmon, 384,250 Lake trout and 68,250 Walleye. DEC staff reported that fall 2016 Chinook and coho salmon egg collections at the Salmon River hatchery “exceeded targets, and that fish survival has been good to date.” However, anglers can expect a shortfall in the numbers of yearling (1 year old) lake trout that will be stocked this coming year due to an unexplained disease at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Allegheny National Fish Hatchery. A total of 400,000 fish was the goal, but the actual number now will be less than 300,000.

The old news coming into the meeting is the recently announced joint New York/Canadian plan to cut Chinook salmon and lake trout stocking levels in Lake Ontario by 20 percent this year. The decision, which officials stress will continue for a few years and have minimal, if any, impact on the lake’s fishing, was prompted the current state of the alewive population on the lake. Alewives are the main prey for Chinook, the No. 1 game fish that anglers target on Ontario. Recent studies have shown alewive numbers took a hit during the brutally cold winters of 2013-14 and 2014-2015. They are not native to the Great Lakes and have limited tolerance to cold temperatures. The result, say DEC officials is an imbalance in the lake of Chinook salmon and the food they need to survive. State, federal and Canadian officials are teaming this spring to do bottom trawl surveys throughout the lake to get a good handle on the situation. They’re hopeful the mild winter this year will result in appreciable increased numbers of the bait fish. (Report courtesy of David Figura,

Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone reports that water temperatures are likely in the 37/38 degree range on the surface of the larger Finger Lakes. Pike/pickerel/walleye/tiger musky seasons close this coming week on March 15th.  It is unlawful to target those species (even for catch and release) when the season is closed, so all my guiding will be focused on trout/salmon until May 6th when the season re-opens.

Here’s John’s lake-by-lake report:

  • Cayuga Lake:  Fly-fishing  and casting with gear has been productive for landlocked salmon and brown trout along with occasional rainbows and lakers.  Lake trout jigging is also productive.  The water level has come up a little bit and launching is easier at some launches.
  • Seneca Lake:  Fishing is currently fair to good for landlocked salmon and brown trout.  Very few boats were out of Watkins Glen perch fishing when we went out.
  • Keuka Lake:  Lake trout fishing should still be good here.
  • Owasco Lake:  Lake trout fishing should be good here.
  • Skaneateles Lake:  Rainbow trout, landlocked salmon and yellow perch fishing should be good here.

Fly fishing events: Here’s a summary of upcoming events:

  • The Al Hazzard chapter of Trout Unlimited will have its next chapter meeting on Tuesday, March 21st at 7 pm at the Vestal Public Library. On tap for the evening’s presentation is Mike Breed of the Chenango Valley High School who will talk about the Trout in the Classroom project.
  • The BC Flyfishers will be holding its next chapter meeting on Thursday, March 23rd at 7pm, with an informal fly tying demo at 6:30 pm. Rick Cramer, owner of Troutfitter Fly Shop in Syracuse will be the speaker and his presentation will be on expanding your trout fishing horizons to include streams around Syracuse. Troutfitter is one of the very few quality fly fishing shops in our area. Rick will tell us about his shop, provide us with discount cards, and acquaint us with more trout fishing locations in the in the Syracuse area.  Specifically, Rick will talk about Otselic River, Skaneateles Creek (and Lake), Oriskany Creek and Chenango Canal, and Fabius Brook. Find out where to access them, what flies to use, and Rick’s favorite spots. Rick will be handing out maps showing access points so bring a pencil to add your notes on best locations.  Why be stuck fishing the same local venues? It’s time to add new scenery and locations to your fishing repertoire. Come and join us and bring a friend.
  • The Leon Chandler chapter of Trout Unlimited is sponsoring Ithaca Fishing Day. The chapter has expanded the focus of this event beyond just fly-fishing to encompass all aspects of fishing and cold-water conservation. The date for the event is Saturday, March 25, 2017 from 9 am to 4 pm. The event will be held at the Ithaca High School, in the cafeteria. Ithaca Fishing Day is a unique event that invites the entire community to come and experience a day of educational opportunities focusing on fishing and cold-water environmental conservation. It’s free to the public and all proceeds raised benefit the youth-related environmental education activities of our local Trout Unlimited Chapter, including the Trout in the Classroom program currently in seventeen local elementary, middle and high schools. Programs are planned throughout the day; including the opportunity to interact with one of the Trout in the Classroom fish tanks. As always, special programs will be featured on a variety of important and interesting topics. This will include presentations by the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, Mel Russo, and Shahab Farzanagen; as well as free fly-casting and fly-tying instruction throughout the day. This event offers unique opportunities to learn fishing and fly tying tips from masters from around the region, and includes demonstration tanks featuring live locally collected aquatic insect specimens.
  • It’s still not too late to sign up for the Twin Tiers Five Rivers chapter of IFFF’s Fly Fishing Academy, scheduled for Saturday, April 8, 2017, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. This year marks the TT5R’s 10th anniversary for the Annual Fly Fishing Academy. The event will be held at the Campbell-Savona High School in Campbell, NY. This is a high quality fly fishing course, open to Adults and to Youth 11 yrs old and over. 
    This full day class is designed for beginner and intermediate fly fishers to develop and expand techniques and skills. The day includes three casting sessions led by a Certified Casting Instructor. Learning sessions throughout the day are taught by fly fishers with vast experience and include fly fishing strategy, knot tying, gear selection, fly selection, getting started with trout and bass, and more. Nymph, dry fly and streamer techniques are demonstrated in a full-scale model stream. Lunch and snacks are provided. No equipment is necessary. Class fee is $85 for Adults (ages 16 and over); $40 for Youth (ages 11-15, accompanied by a registered Adult). TTFR Members are also eligible for a $10 discount. Space is limited and filled last year, so you are encouraged to register early. Prepaid registration is required by Fri., March 31st. Contact Steve Harris 607-377-4956 or Kirk Klingensmith 607-346-7189
  • The Eastern Waters Council of IFFF, parent organization of the BC Flyfishers and Twin Tiers Five Rivers chapter, is having a contest to bring in new members, called “Giving the Gift Of Membership”. The contest is to encourage current members to buy an IFFF membership as a gift to a fly fishing friend, fishing buddy, or family member. You will be entered in a raffle for a new Sage Rod and Reel. To enter the contest, call Kat Mulqueen (406-222-9369 X106) at IFFF headquarters, tell her you are from the BCFF chapter or TTFR chapter, Eastern Waters Council and that you want to participate in the Giving the Gift of Membership. You will need to provide the giftee name, address and email and pay for their membership. There is also a prize for the club that brings in the most new members. You will be helping your buddy, your Club and the IFFF, and you will be eligible to win an awesome new rod and reel! The contest ends May 1st.

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

We’ll have partly cloudy skies on Sunday, but it will be frigid and breezy with highs in the teens and 20s’. Cold Sunday night with lows in the single digits. Another low will develop over the middle part of the country, tracking well to our south. This will turn into a Nor’easter. It will give us some clouds on Monday. The storm track brings the low right along the Atlantic coast, so there is a chance of snow on Tuesday and into Wednesday. We’ll have partly cloudy skies on Thursday. Another low coming in from the west will give us some snow on Friday. The good news with this is that temperatures will be on the rise with highs in the 30’s to end the forecast.


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