Archive for the Rod Building 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.

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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: January 9, 2017

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Rod Building, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , on January 8, 2017 by stflyfisher

Happy New Year! Another year gone by – another year to come. It’s been a while since the last weekly fishing report so here’s the first of 2017. In general, fishing has slowed with the cold weather, but there is still some decent fly fishing to be had for the winter-hardened anglers out there. I’ll cover the areas with updates where fly fishing is possible. Small stillwaters such as ponds and the smaller creeks and streams and the warmwater rivers are pretty much out now due to the presence of ice.

Fly shop talk: A recent ad from Simms that found its way into my email carried the subject line: “2017 Resolution: Go Fishing.” As simple as it is, and an obvious lead-in to what new products Simms has in store for 2017 that will help you go fishing, anglers should read and heed and definitely carry this mantra forward in 2017. After all, nothing beats hitting the water for anglers wanting to improve their skills and as Harry Murray, famed smallmouth fly angler says, a day you don’t go fishing is a day you never will. Second to going fishing is to desk-top fish in some way, by reading a book, tying flies, working on gear, or even building a new fly rod. I’m convinced ANY type of fly fishing activity makes a better angler in the long run…

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Any fly fishing activity can make for a better angler in the long run…

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

Great Lakes / Finger Lakes tributaries: The Douglaston Salmon Run is reporting that some steelhead are being caught but conditions are less than favorable at the moment with a lot of lake effect snow, very cold water, and marginally high flows for wading. The USGS gauge at Pineville is currently around 900 CFS. Whitakers Sport’s Store and Motel reports that the upper end of the river is producing some action for anglers able to brave the cold. Anglers fishing the Altmar to Pineville section of the river are hooking up with steelhead. One local angler reported landing one smaller size steelhead (5 lbs) and seeing a few others caught – generally the same size. The Finger Lakes tribs are also producing browns, rainbows and landlocked salmon for those willing to fight the cold.

Suggested Patterns:

  • Sucker spawn in white, cream, peach, blue. size 8
  • Estaz eggs in chart, pink, white, blue. size 10
  • Glo-Bugs in pink, chart, orange. size 8
  • Steelie omelet in chart, peach. size 8
  • Steelhead stone in red, purple, orange. size 6
  • Steelhead bugger in size 6.
  • Black / purple egg sucking leech in size 6.

Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone is reporting the Finger Lakes to be heading for a deep freeze that’s expected to last at least a week. But now’s a great time to plan for spring fishing. Following is his lake-by-lake report:

  • Cayuga Lake:  Shorefishing has been productive for landlocked salmon, brown trout, rainbows and lakers.  Both fly-and gear fishing is working.
  • Seneca Lake:  Last I’d heard, perch fishing was good here.  I’d expect a few salmon and trout to be around, as well as some pike for the boaters as well as anglers in good shore areas.
  • Keuka Lake:  Lake trout fishing is still very good here.  Also expect good perch/bass/pickerel and fair salmon/trout fishing.
  • Owasco Lake:  Lake trout and northern pike fishing should be good here.
  • Skaneateles Lake:  Rainbow trout, landlocked salmon and yellow perch fishing should be good here along with some bonus lake trout and smallmouth bass.

 

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 auction will be held at their next monthly chapter meeting, on Thursday, January 19th.
  • The BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF is holding its next monthly chapter meeting on Thursday, January 19 at 7:00 pm, with a fly tying demo at 6:30 pm. The presentation topic isFishing for Silvers in (rainy) Cordova, Alaska” with speaker and chapter member, Dan Leonard. Come out to watch another one of Dan’s entertaining videos of his fishing trip to Cordova, Alaska for silvers (Coho Salmon).  This trip took place in September of 2008 with Mark Heath from Chenango Forks and old friend and guide, Ed Trainer from British Columbia.  In September, Cordova has the most precipitation of the year at an average of 22 inches with an average of 21 rain days of the month.  The public is invited and there is no charge for the presentation.
  • The BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF is also conducting a fly rod building class. The first class was held this past Saturday. While the class is closed to new registrants, the classes are open to the public to attend and watch. Here’s a link from last year’s very successful class. There are two sessions left – Saturday, January 14, 2017 @ 9:00 am and Saturday ,January 21, 2017 @ 12:30 pm. The class is being held at the Endicott Public Library in the downstairs meeting room.
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Joe Swam, expert rod maker, teaches a student in the fine art of fly rod building at the BC Flyfishers second annual fly rod building class. Picture courtesy of the BC Flyfishers.

  • The Leon Chandler Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Tompkins County Cooperative Extension 4-H Program will be offering an Introduction to Fly Tying workshop, featuring nine two-hour sessions with several different instructors teaching the basics of tying the dry fly, wet fly, nymph and streamer patterns that are the most effective in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes area. All classes will be from 6:00-8:00 pm on Saturdays, January 14 – March 11, 2017 at the Tompkins County Cooperative Extension Education Center, 615 Willow Avenue Ithaca, NY. In addition to the 9 weeks of instruction, tuition includes complete tying kits (vises, scissors and related tools); all tying materials (feathers, dubbing, hooks and related materials); as well as a comprehensive introductory text on fly tying. Fees are $140 for adults (19 and up), $110 for children (between the ages of 13 and 18) and $215 for a child and adult combination. There are a limited number of partial scholarships available for children between the ages of 13 and 18. A 50% tuition deposit must accompany your application. To register contact Athena Steinkraus at:
    Winter Fly Tying Workshop
    c/o Tompkins County CCE
    615 Willow Avenue
    Ithaca, NY 14850
    MORE INFO:  607-272-2292 (ext. 139)
    ahs38@cornell.edu

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

According to WBNG’s Nathaniel Hopper, windy and cold conditions will prevail for all of us for the rest of the weekend, while some localized areas will see lake-effect snowfall. Strong northwest winds will be bringing snow off Lake Ontario, as we could see gusts up to 30mph. Wind chills in the negative teens to negative single digits cannot be ruled out. The best chance for snow looks to stay north and east of Binghamton, while a few waves of snow may wobble across Broome/Tioga County throughout the day. Some localized areas north and east of Binghamton may see more than 3″ of snowfall in more persistent bands, though 0 to 2″ is expected for a majority of the area as snow showers end late Sunday. Temperatures then dip into the single digits Sunday night, with some spots possibly seeing negative single digits. Temperatures then look to warm through the first of next week, winding up in the low-40s by mid-week, which is well above average. As things warm up, rain and a wintry mix will be more likely than snow. A cold front then looks to bulldoze through the Twin Tiers next weekend, dropping temperatures back to seasonable with a wintry mix possible as the front passes.

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