Archive for the Writing Category

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!






Fishing with the ladies…

Posted in Fishing Reports, Saltwater, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , on September 2, 2017 by stflyfisher

My connection with Destin, Florida is an interesting story, one to be revealed in a blog post at a later time. For now, let’s just say I have good reason to frequent this sunny Florida panhandle city – part of the beautiful “Emerald Coast”.

I recently wrapped up a week-long visit to Destin, complete with family and “plus ones” in tow. As busy and hectic as the vacation schedule was, I still had time to fish the early hours while the rest of the house snoozed away.

Destin sits on a long peninsula of land between the Gulf of Mexico and Choctawhatchee Bay – a large saltwater bay, 129 square miles in size, that is fed by the gulf tides and estuary rivers to the north.


An aerial view of Destin. Picture courtesy of

In addition to an abundance of places to fish in the salt, the area is dotted with ponds and lakes that hold largemouth bass and panfish. So depending on the weather and sea conditions, an angler has a choice of bay fishing, surf fishing, and pond/lake fishing. There’s rarely a time when a line has to sit dry for long.


Miles and miles of white sandy beach await the early morning fly fisher…

For most of this visit I chose to fish the surf. I had previously fished Destin in the spring and fall, focusing on the bay. I’d heard summertime had a significant “trash fish” bite, but among that rubble was a gem of a fish that had a reputation as a great adversary on the long rod: the ladyfish…


The ladyfish is a ray-finned fish also referred to as skipjacks, jack-rashes, or tenpounders. They are coastal-dwelling and found throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world but occasionally venture into more temperate waters. Ladyfish prey on smaller fish and shrimp. They can grow to over 3 feet in length and may reach 20 pounds in weight. More commonly, they are found to range from 12″ to over 20″. The body of the ladyfish is a tapered spindle shape with an oval cross-section. Their eyes are very large as are their mouths. Their incredible aerial acrobatics in combination with a hard mouth allows them to throw a poorly set hook quite easily. They are largely silver and white in color but their backs are a light olive to sand color with a beautiful band of pink where their color transitions to silver.

After arriving at our place and settling in, I rigged my 9 weight fly rod with a full intermediate line and took a quick golf cart ride to the beach. I walked east beyond the swimming area and began casting a size 2 chartreuse and white clouser minnow. It wasn’t long before I was hooked up and witnessing first-hand, the incredible high-jumps of the ladyfish.


Ladyfish are known as the “poor man’s tarpon” due to their incessant aerobatics, as captured here in this picture courtesy of Doug Olander.

I fished the surf for several days and found varied fishing conditions for these surf-side torpedoes. One day the surf was flat as a mill-pond and I spent much of the day running up and down the beach chasing ladies crashing the beach. Their devastating attacks on glass minnows in the shallows reminded me of bluefish blitzes. On other days the surf was up and the ladies were still biting but were spread out and cruising resulting in a slow but steady bite. One hot afternoon I found them on almost every other cast, though they were not showing themselves as they were on the calmer days.


I’ll estimate I caught at least a hundred ladyfish over a 4 day period and probably lost another 50 in the process. Ladyfish are built for blitzing bait – a long sleek body, deeply forked tail, big eyes, and a big mouth all make for one terrific gamefish for the saltwater angler.

One group of Mississippi fly fishermen respectfully refer to the ladyfish as the Mississippi tarbone and point out that local anglers can experience much of the thrill of catching tarpon and bonefish without having to leave Mississippi waters.

I found the “ladies” to feed very aggressively and take almost any fly I threw at them. While I didn’t try topwater, I’m sure a large popper thrown into their blitzes would have resulted in regular hook-ups. At times they would feed actively in large schools and could be seen porpoising as they chased bait in the shallows. The most effective flies were shiny, silver, or white. A white clouser with some flash combined with a fast retrieve that imparts plenty of action to the fly is all that is needed to catch these lightening bolts of the salt.

While sometimes difficult to hook, ladyfish will strike again and again on the retrieve. Their mouth is very abrasive; leaders should be checked frequently for fraying. On the advice of the local Orvis fly shop, I used a small bite guard of 30 lb mono as ladyfish are not at all leader shy. And I’d recommend not using expensive or intricate flies because they will get chewed up and stripped to a bare hook in no time! A 1/0 stainless hook tied with a lot of flash and some white hackle or deer hair will do the trick. Don’t spare the glue or epoxy! Simple and bullet-proof will work well.

The fish I caught ranged in size from 12″ to over 24″. Any ladyfish will fight hard but when they get over 18″ you will quickly be grinning ear to ear with their blistering runs and spastic leaps. I caught several larger ones that put a serious bend in my 9 weight and made long reel-screaming runs followed by tarpon-like leaps.

Noreen Galaba ladyfish

A nice-sized ladyfish caught while wading. Photo by Captain Baz Yelverton.

I fished my 9 weight rod because one never knows what will show up in the surf, including redfish, jacks, and sharks, but I could have gone lighter. A 6 – 8 weight rod would work just as well and reduce arm fatigue from casting. A floating line can be used when the fish are in close but I prefer an intermediate or intermediate sink tip to get down in the water column. A simple 30/20 lb mono leader 5 to 8 feet in length is all that is needed on the business end. Flies do not need to be big, but I found that a larger hook helps increase hook-ups.

Ladyfish are sometimes cursed by anglers because they can aggressively interfere with fishing for other species. Redfish anglers, for example, will stalk a flat only to hook up with a ladyfish and spook every red on the flat. But I welcomed the opportunity to waltz with the “ladies”. I could count on them to join me on the floor with every cast. I could delight in their high leaps from the emerald waters of the Gulf straight up to the bright blue Florida sky. And I’ll certainly be back to ask for another dance with them come next summer.

The week ahead in fly fishing: August 28, 2017

Posted in Carp, Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , on August 30, 2017 by stflyfisher

Put August in the books. Labor Day looms and it won’t be long before we are into Fall and arguably the best fishing of the year, assuming Mother Nature cooperates. Precipitation totals continue to climb for our area but at a slower rate. The warmwater rivers are finally down. The increased precip and cool temperatures have been great for trout fishing. Lastly, there are reports that the salmon are starting to enter the tribs.

KBGMcurrent2 (1)

Air temps have been in the normal to cooler than normal over the last month.

KBGM2017plot (1)

Fly Shop Talk: I’m currently reading the book My Life was This Big, by Lefy Kreh. It’s an interesting read and I’ll be doing a full book review on it when I am finished. One impression I have of Lefty from the book is that he certainly is an unconventional thinker and he applies that way of thinking to almost everything he does, fly fishing included. He believes that fly fishing is paralyzed by tradition, and gives numerous examples, but highlights the way anglers learn to fly cast – the 10 and 2 approach – arguing that for small stream casters it is appropriate but not for anglers fishing big water and windy conditions. Lefty is known for a much longer and more horizontal casting stroke. At 92, Lefty still give casting demonstrations!

Here’s the week ahead in fly fishing report:

Lake Ontario Tribs: To sum it up in a few words, the salmon are starting to trickle in. There are some salmon being landed – with many more brief hook-ups. This is encouraging to see even though the numbers are small so far. Look for things to pickup more after the water release next weekend. Every year is different but so far this looks like it should be a great river season.

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

  • Cayuga Lake: Jigging remains good. Occasional salmon, rainbow trout and brown trout are in the mix. Largemouth bass fishing (with bonus pickerel) is fair to good here.
  • Owasco Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing should be fair to good here. Lake trout fishing should be picking up markedly here. Expect bonus browns, rainbows and bass.
  • Skaneateles Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing is good. Lake trout jigging is fair. Plenty of large rockbass and some perch are around.
  • Seneca Lake: Fishing is fair for lakers – a couple fish is a good day. No recent reports from here.
  • Keuka Lake: Lake trout fishing should be fair to good here. Bass fishing has been good.
  • Otisco Lake: No recent reports from here but with drier conditions the fishing should be good here for bass and tiger muskies.

Catskill Rivers:  

The Catskill Rivers have been in good shape and fishing well thanks to rain and cool temps. Following are some local fly shop reports:

  • The West Branch Angler is reporting that water levels, bugs and the fishing have been pretty consistent the last few weeks. Stilesville on the upper West Branch is running 526 cfs and down at Hale Eddy we have 637 cfs and 49 degrees, pretty good flows for late-August. The upper East at Harvard is now 268 cfs and 54 degrees and down at Fishs’ Eddy we have 437 cfs and 60 degrees. Down on the main Delaware we have 1,200 cfs and 62 degrees this morning. The mornings have been a good time to hit the water with some Tricos on the Main and East Branch with a few on the lower West Branch. As usual up here the Tricos can be hit or miss and a lot depends on the weather of the day and getting some spinners on the water. The Blue Winged Olives in #18-22 have been pretty reliable this year with some bugs usually showing up early afternoon on. Small Rusty Spinners for the Olives are essential flies to have this time of year. We’ve been seeing some pretty small winged ants in size 24 or smaller and are good flies to have, even if the fish seem to be feeding on mayflies. Terrestrials in general are always good to have this time of year. We have a little stain to the West Branch and it seems to be coming from the release/reservoir, which is usual this time of year, and is not a bad thing for the streamer fishing as we approach fall. It looks to be fairly cool all week with little rain.
  • The Delaware River Club is also reporting that the olives hatches have been good over the last few weeks. The fish are eating a lot of them just under the surface or in the film so watch the rise forms carefully. Otherwise nymphing or swinging wet flies will be your best shot. There are a lot of small olives on the rivers so keep that in mind while choosing the sizes of your wets and nymphs.
  • Ken Tutalo of Baxter House Fly Fishing Outfitters reports that the good fishing continues. With the regular rainfall and cooler weather mother nature has been taking care of our wild trout and insects. Just about every trip that went out this week was very good. All of our guests have had great action on nymphs regardless of the river section chosen. Right now the trout want to eat and if you get a nymph in front of them they will take it. During the last few days our guides have been spread out with boats on both the upper and lower sections of the West Branch and on the East Branch. The majority of the floats have been spent fishing nymph rigs and the fly rods have been bending. There was also a brief period this week where intense local showers caused turbidity. During this brief turbidity the streamer bite turned on pretty good. Guide Matt had an early day trip where they had steady action on streamer flies. The best news this week is that there were a few days where the fish rose pretty steady for a prolonged period. I put my guests into this action on both the East and West branches recently and the action was good for about the last 2 hours before dark. With the cooler afternoons the insect activity has been picking up. Most of the activity has been with olives. They are emerging well most days. There are also Trico’s, Sulfurs, Isonychia, Cahills, Midges and terrestrials in the drift. In addition to these insects there has been the occasional mix of Caddisflies and some brief sightings of giant yellow drakes in places. Overall however there is enough insects on the water to keep the trout interested. On my last float trip we had really steady catching with both Olive Cripples, Olive Klinkhammers and Rusty Spinners. From late afternoon until dark the fish have been looking up. Anglers will find the trout just about everywhere but there have been pods of juvenile and mid size browns feeding heavily in the bubble lines of the eddies and in the tailouts of pools where insects accumulate. These pod feeding trout have had tunnel vision and zero selectivity. When we have found this action it has been a fish on every cast. Anglers planning to fish in the coming days will now finally have some options. There is good Trico Action early day and streamers may tempt a few during this time period as well. The mid day period has been fishing well with nymphs. With the cooler weather anglers will now have some additional areas to nymph as the Beaverkill, Willow, Lower East and Main Stem are back into a decent temperature range. Anglers should start to look for risers in late afternoon. All of the main pools will now have action and in some places they have been going wild. From this point on we can expect the fishing to continue to slowly improve with every cool day. Now is a great time to plan a float trip on one of the Delaware Branches. The Smallmouth Bass action has been hot which is normal for July through mid September. Guide Zach has been putting some time chasing these gamefish. He has been fishing the Delaware below Callicoon regularly and with great success. The next few weeks are a great time to get out for smallies. They will start to feed heavily as the waters start to cool down. This cooling period also coincides with the migration of baby shad dropping back down the river. Every year this event causes heavy feeding blitzes in many of the eddies down river. We will continue to offer smallmouth bass trips through mid September.


Slate Drake #12-2xl – 12 – Isonychia bicolor
Sulphur – #16 – 20 – Ephemerella dorothea
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella rotunda
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella invaria
Little BWO – #22 – 26- Pseudocloeon sp.
Blue Wing Olives – #18 – Baetis sp.
Little Tan Sedge – #16 – 18 – Glossosoma sp.
Green Caddis – #16 – Ryacophilia sp.
Tan Caddis #16 – 18 – Hydropsyche spp.

Local creeks: Local creek flows are dropping to summer lows, though storms will continue to periodically revive them. It’s time now to put terrestrials in the vest if they aren’t there already. Grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and ants. Don’t forget inchworms also. While fishing with nymphs and dries will produce, look for terrestrials to become a main course item for trout as the hatches begin to dwindle. Hopper fishing can be great where creeks flow by open fields – especially when the wind is blowing.

Warmwater Rivers: The warmwater rivers have indeed been acting strange, mainly due to the weather. While all of our local rivers are good for nice wading and good fly fishing, water temps are down due to the cooler than normal air temps and recent rains. My personal opinion is that this sudden change in water temp may have put down the bass temporarily. The fishing should come back.

All of the local rivers are in superb shape with excellent clarity. The rivers are loaded with crayfish and minnows and the white fly hatch is most liely now in its later stages. This hatch usually stretches out over 6 weeks beginning in late July and lasting well into August.

Right now topwater should produce as should fishing big nymphs dead drift or swinging large streamers. Focus efforts on low-light conditions or fish the shady areas of the rivers for the best action. Remember to experiment – sometimes the bass want a slow swing, sometimes they’ll be more apt to jump a fly that has a lot of movement. Besides smallmouth bass, fallfish, channel cats, and walleye have all been on the hunt for a well-fished fly.

Ponds: Ponds remain a great place to fly fish right now. Largemouth bass are in summer mode and are more than willing to take a fly. As the water heats up and the sun is bright, it’s now time to shift fishing to early or late, but in the case of sunfish, any time of the day will work. Fishing the edges of weeds and around structure with wooly buggers, big nymphs, and streamers should remain effective, but topwater will also be effective especially in the early morning and towards evening.

Fly Fishing Events / Activities: It won’t be long until local fly fishing clubs begin their fall programs. September is usually the start of monthly meetings.

  • The Twin Tiers Five Rivers Chapter of FFI has announced their September meeting: We welcome you to join us on September 11th at 6:30pm, when Scott Feltrinelli will be visiting to talk about fishing the great lakes tributaries for salmon, steelhead and bass. Scott has over 27 years of fly fishing experience in both fresh and saltwater, and is the owner and guide of Ontario Fly Outfitters. Ontario Fly Outfitters is one of New York’s premiere fly fishing guide services specializing in providing a wide variety of fishing experiences for every level of fishing ability. He regularly targets the world class fishery we have within Western New York, on the tributaries of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie from the Salmon River to Steelhead Alley. Scott is an author/photographer for On The Fly Magazine, Cortland Line, Simms and LOOP Tackle Pro Staff. Scott’s talk will cover the techniques he uses to catch salmon, steelhead and bass in the Great Lakes tribs, as well as some of the streams he frequents. If you want to catch more steelhead or smallmouth bass this year in the great lakes tribs, you won’t want to miss this presentation. Unlike past presentations, we will not be starting with a fly tying demo. Instead, Scott’s presentation starts at 6:30 sharp, at the Big Flats Community Center, 476 Maple Street, Big Flats, NY 14814. Please note Sept’s date is shifted from our normal first Monday of the month timing due to Labor Day holiday.

The Week Ahead Weather: WBNG’s forecast is as follows:

Our weather remains a large body of high pressure over the St. Lawrence River. This will give us mostly sunny skies and mild temperatures. We will put a few more clouds in the forecast for Tuesday, but our string of beautiful weather will continue.

We’ll watch a storm working its way up the Atlantic Coast on Wednesday. This will give us more of a glancing blow. We’ll have clouds with a slight chance of scattered showers.

A cold front will move through Thursday giving us mostly cloudy skies with showers and thunderstorms. A quick shot of cool air will follow on Friday with highs in the 60s. We’ll see mostly sunny skies on Friday and into Saturday.

A warm front will approach on Sunday giving us clouds and showers. Temperatures will rebound into the 70s Sunday and Monday with partly cloudy skies on Monday.




The week ahead in fly fishing: August 7, 2017

Posted in Carp, Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on August 7, 2017 by stflyfisher

Summer seems to be finally here. The wet weather has eased somewhat, though we are still on a record-setting pace. Precipitation totals year to date are greater than 2016. But the rain events have been more sporadic with dry breaks between storms. This is helping drop river levels more quickly. It has also been cooler with daily highs holding in a tight range around the average for this time of year.

A recent hike with my dog along Choconut Creek in Vestal showed the impact of the significant flooding we have had this year. This creek flows from Pennylvania through Vestal and is a tributary to the Susquehanna. normally at this time of year it is low and clear – a trickle in some places. The upper reaches of the creek in PA and some of its tribs, such as “No Name Brook” hold native brookies. This year will be a good year for them!


Major bank erosion on the Choconut Creek resulted in large tree downfalls in places. This picture, taken on 8/6/17, shows the Choconut flowing fairly full for summer.

Fly Shop Talk: A must-read for every fly fisher is the book, “A River Never Sleeps” by Roderick Haig-Brown. Bob Card, friend, fellow angler, and steelhead enthusiast, recommended the book to me one morning as we drove to the Salmon River. Card highly recommended it – a “couldn’t put it down” recommendation – and he was right. Buried deep in the book’s 352 pages, is a great essay titled, “Why Fish”. The 8 page essay begins with recounting a run-in Haig-Brown’s father – a big man and Army officer – had when a “little Cockney private” came running round a street corner smack into him. The collision prompted the larger man to ask of the smaller man, “why run?” The answer from the Cockney private: “to please myself”. Haig-Brown goes on to explore the many reasons we fish, but principally comes around to “enjoyment” as the main one. He goes on to remark that “fishing” started so many thousands of years ago when a tribe member took off in secrecy to fish long after a hunt had provided all the food the tribe needed.

Here’s the week ahead report:

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

  • Cayuga Lake: Jigging is back to top-notch form. Occasional salmon, rainbow trout and brown trout are in the mix. I expect good largemouth bass fishing on Cayuga Lake.
  • Owasco Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing should be fair to good here. Lake trout fishing is fair to good.
  • Skaneateles Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing is good. Lake trout jigging is fair. Plenty of rockbass and some perch are around.
  • Seneca Lake: Fishing is fair for lakers – a couple fish is a good day.
  • Keuka Lake: Lake trout fishing should be fair to good here. Bass fishing has been good.
  • Otisco Lake: No recent reports from here.

Catskill Rivers:  

The Catskill Rivers have been in good shape and fishing well thanks to lots of rain and generally normal to cool temps. Following are some local fly shop reports:

  • The West Branch Angler is reporting that today is looking like a great day to be out with a slight drizzle since this morning and cloudy skies all day. The air temps are great and feel more like September than August at 57 currently which is great for the mainstem and East Branch. It looks like we won’t get too much rain today, probably 1/3″ total, not enough to bring it up too much. Currently the upper West Branch is 526 cfs at Stilesvill and 47 degrees. Down at Hale Eddy the flow is 611 cfs and 49 degrees. The East at Harvard is now 225 cfs and 56 degrees and downriver at Fishs’ Eddy the flow is 488 cfs and 62 degrees. The mainstem at Lordville is now 1,360 cfs and 62. A great temp going into August and would be a great place to be with the current overcast conditions. If you’ve had enough of the Sulphurs in the no kill try the main with some Blue Winged Olives or blind casting a large Isonychia in likely spots. We should have some good Olives on the West as well. The streamer fishing is also a great option for today with the low light and possibly a little stain from the rain.
  • The Delaware River Club is reporting that Oquaga Creek was pushing a lot of water into the West Branch over the weekend. The river was a chalky color rather than brown making it decent for throwing streamers. We found mixing up the streamer selection made the difference and finally settled on small, dark patterns. The water was clear enough for fish to rise and there were some eating in the evening when the olives hatched. The Upper West Branch above Oquaga was in fine shape and had the normal hatches of sulphurs and olives. We are coming off a cool night so the water temperatures are starting off a couple of degrees cooler this morning. Today looks good with partly cloudy skies and air temperatures in the low 70’s. Winds should stay in the single digits.
  • Ken Tutalo of Baxter House Fly Fishing Outfitters reports that fishing has been very good for both trout and smallmouth bass. With the cooler weather and mix of sunny and overcast conditions the fish and insects were very active. The steady supply of thunderstorms recently has kept certain stretches of the river running with turbidity. This has been in every local river. Our guests have had periods of exciting action with streamers. There have been a lot of trout on both the East and West branches that are more than willing to chase streamers pretty hard. The trick has been turning the chasers into takers. To accomplish this we have been fishing mostly smaller patterns. Buggers, Urchin Buggers, EP Baitfish and 4″ or smaller articulated patterns. These smaller offerings have been the best at sealing the deal.
    The cooler weather and cooler water has been great for the hatches and the overall activity of the trout. On my trips there were plenty of targets as trout have been feeding steadily to a mix of insects. I have been out both early and late recently and there is action. There is a huge amount of trico’s emerging every morning. As long as the water is slow enough for the trout to feed efficiently they have been on them. Yesterday we had a few nice pods of mature rainbows feeding steadily on these tiny duns. We also had very good nymph fishing during the AM portion of the day.
    The evening rise has been better simply because the insects are more widespread and varied. There are olives, sulfurs, isonychia, cahills, midges. The evening is also a bit easier since the fish have been set up feeding in faster water as well as the pools. Finding a good fish eating larger insects in fast water makes for a much easier presentation. On all of my recent trips I have been able to locate solitary trout in riffles that were blowing up on the occasional Isonychia or cahill that floats by. Most of these trout have found their way to the net. The forecast for the week has daytime highs in the mid 70’s so conditions should be stable for a while. Now is a great time to take a crack at some mid summer dry fly fishing. We have been hitting the bass waters hard and with a good reason. The bass action is hot and it is all surface action! These great game fish have good water temperatures to be super active now. Now is the time where they will feed heavy in anticipation of cooling waters later in the fall. On all of our recent trips we have been able to fish the POPPER from start to finish. The action is good all day but it increases in intensity as the day progresses. On my recent trips the late afternoon has produced non stop action. On all of our recent trips the catch rate has been up. 20 + fish on the fly rod is common now and we have been taking some nice fish. Yesterday we had lots of 14″ to 18″ bass come to net. Right now we are fishing size #2 poppers on 5 weight rods. This combination is perfectly matched for Delaware Smallies. The best action is on brightly colored poppers. Orange has been hot.


Slate Drake #12-2xl – 12 – Isonychia bicolor
Sulphur – #16 – 20 – Ephemerella dorothea
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella rotunda
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella invaria
Little BWO – #22 – 26- Pseudocloeon sp.
Blue Wing Olives – #18 – Baetis sp.
Little Tan Sedge – #16 – 18 – Glossosoma sp.
Green Caddis – #16 – Ryacophilia sp.
Tan Caddis #16 – 18 – Hydropsyche spp.

Local creeks: Local creek flows remain in a yo-yo pattern with the variable weather we’ve had. They will continue to rise and fall with the sporadic storms. To many anglers, these high water events are an excuse to fish elsewhere, but to creek-savvy anglers, change is a good word. Fishing after a high water event can be difficult but highly rewarding. Nymphing with big “nymphs” like cranefly larvae, worms, crayfish and hellgrammite patterns, can lure big browns waiting for the washdown of all sorts of food forms. Large streamers fished dead drift and on the swing can also take high water trout.

Warmwater Rivers: The warmwater rivers were on the way down through this past Thursday, but Friday’s rains proved to be a spoiler for the weekend. Flows are again dropping and with a string of dry days in the forecast, should provide good fishing by late in the week. Some anglers have managed to produce by capitalizing on days when flows have dropped. Topwater and subsurface flies will work, with topwater being the choice for when the light is low. Pay attention to the USGS water gages for now.

tio 807

The Tioughnioga River was at a nice fishing level up until Friday, when rain had put it back on the rise. This river, along with the Chenango and Chemung, should give anglers hunting for bronze some good fishing access in the week ahead.

Ponds: Ponds remain a great place to fly fish right now. Largemouth bass are in summer mode and are more than willing to take a fly. As the water heats up and the sun is bright, it’s now time to shift fishing to early or late, but in the case of sunfish, any time of the day will work. Fishing the edges of weeds and around structure with wooly buggers, big nymphs, and streamers should remain effective, but topwater will also be effective especially in the early morning and towards evening.

Fly Fishing Events / Activities: It won’t be long until local fly fishing clubs begin their fall programs. Here is one update on a fishing tripped planned by the TTFR chapter of FFI:

  • Chemung River Fishing Trip Moved Again to August 26 – Due to the water conditions on July 22, the Chemung River float fishing trip was postponed. The trip has been rescheduled for August 26th and is again open to all TTFR International Federation of Fly Fishers members and visitors. We need to know before August 23 if you plan to come. This is usually a productive and popular float for bass and carp. Plan to meet at 9 am in Corning NY at the Cohocton Street launch (behind Pressware) and float 7 miles to Botchers Landing. We will grill out a shoreline lunch halfway through the trip. We expect to be off the river around 5 pm. For lunch, the club will grill burgers with all the fixings. The club will have bottled water and some drinks. There will be plates, napkins, plastic silverware, etc. If you want to bring food to share, that would be great. Chips, cookies, wine, beer, or whatever else you would like. Fishing is for smallmouth bass and carp. An 8 weight outfit is recommended with a floating and maybe an 8 weight with a sink tip line. If you don’t have an 8 wt – bring what you have. If you need to borrow a rod, the club has 6 weights. I think you will find a 7 or 8 is perfect for the size of flies and longer casts. I suggest bringing clouser minnows, foxee minnows, suspendors, twistertails and gurglers. Big wooly buggers are a good bet. Felt sole wading boots are recommended. The rocks are very slippery – so best to avoid tennis shoes or Tevas. Bring a raincoat. You will need a canoe, kayak, driftboat, or inflatable pontoon for the float. If you will have space and would be willing to take along another person in your boat – that would be great! If you would like to come, but do not have a watercraft – we will try to hook you up with someone who has an open spot or you can rent a canoe ($45) or a single person kayak (35$/day). Please let us know your needs and we will make the arrangements with the rental company. Life jackets, paddles, etc will be provided if you rent. Please contact Matt Towner 607-542-0285 ( before August 23 to let us know you plan to attend. You may also contact Kirk Klingensmith ( ), but he is out of town until 8/18, so a response may be delayed until he returns. In the case of bad water conditions or severe weather, we will notify folks who are coming by e-mail or cellphone.

The Week Ahead Weather: WBNG’s forecast is as follows:

After a relatively dry weekend, there’s a chance of showers for Monday with temperatures in the low-70s. High pressure then pushes in Tuesday through Thursday afternoon. Temperatures crest in the mid- to upper-70s under sunny skies, before the chance of showers returns late on Thursday and persists through Friday. At this time, Saturday looks to be a mainly quiet day, as a pocket of high pressure moves north through Ontario, perhaps keeping our atmosphere stable enough to prevent any convective rain or storms.




The fly fisherman and the boxer…

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , , on July 28, 2017 by stflyfisher

It’s odd how disparate interests sometimes fire randomly like so many synapses in our brains and connect in new and interesting ways.  Consider, for example, my interest in fly fishing and the sweet science: boxing.  If you’ve read my “about” page, you already know that I’m the lone fisherman in my genetic line, save the possibility of some great uncles on my mother’s side who headed out to Montana in the early 1900’s.  Whether they ever wet a line on the great rivers is unknown, but the thought consoles me in my fly fishing addiction.

Boxing is another story, one that’s a little more understandable in that my maternal grandfather, who passed long before I came into this world, was apparently quite the fan (being Irish descent didn’t hurt either).  My mother told me of his interest only when I revealed my own love for the sport. She recounted his sitting by the radio, listening to the great bouts of Dempsey, Braddock, Louis, Baer, and undoubtedly, Jack Sharkey, the only man to have fought both Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis.


Joe Louis is sent to a neutral corner after dropping Jack Sharkey. Louis would prevail after knocking Sharkey down 4 times. It was Sharkey’s last fight in the ring – August 18, 1936.

Jack Sharkey was born Joseph Paul Cukoschay on October 26, 1902, in Binghamton New York.  The son of Lithuanian immigrants, Sharkey left the family home in New York when he was a teenager, ending up in Boston. Sources report little of his early life until, at the outset of the First World War, teenaged Joseph repeatedly tried to enlist in the Navy. Turned down because of his age, he was not able to enlist until after the end of the war.

“Every time Louis hit me, he said, ‘Sorry.’ Every time Jack Dempsey hit me, he said, ‘How come you’re not dead yet?’”—Jack Sharkey

Sharkey wasn’t much of a fighter growing up – it wasn’t until he served in the U.S. Navy that Sharkey first stepped into a boxing ring, and that was only because a midshipman told him to substitute in the next fight at a Navy smoker or he wouldn’t get shore leave. Tall and husky, Jack quickly established a reputation as the best boxer aboard any vessel on which he served. Sharkey stood 6′ and had a notable 76″ reach. During his brief returns home to Boston he took part in his first fights for pay, the first on January 24, 1924, against Billy Muldoon, whom he knocked out in the first round. By the time of his honorable discharge just short of a month later, he had won a second fight and was already earning write-ups in the Boston papers.

Interestingly, a promoter declared his Lithuanian name unusable and so Joseph Paul Cukoschay became Jack Sharkey – “Jack” after Jack Dempsey and “Sharkey” from ‘Sailor’ Tom Sharkey, who fought Jim Jeffries to a 25-round decision for the heavyweight title in 1899.

“Who hit me hardest? Dempsey hit me the hardest because Dempsey hit me $211,000 worth while Louis only hit me $36,000 worth…”

Sharkey’s career statistics show an admirable record of 37 wins, 13 defeats, and 3 draws. One of his most noteworthy fights was against his “namesake”, Jack Dempsey, on July 21, 1927 in Yankee Stadium. Despite out-boxing the “Manassas Mauler” for 5 rounds, Sharkey lost the bout in the 6th round.  “I turned to the referee to complain I was getting hit low, and I got hit with a haymaker,” he once recalled. “That was that. I was out on the canvas.” “I came home and I went in the hospital,” Sharkey recounted more than 40 years later, in Peter Heller’s, In This Corner (1973). “I passed blood there for a long time . . . this is never brought out in print, the after-effects of a fight. You dry out like a lightweight, you’re dehydrated, pains that you have, you come home you soak in a tub full of Epsom salts, the pain and the aches. No one knows what a fighter goes through after the fight.”

When asked why he had hit a man who wasn’t looking, Dempsey replied, “What was I supposed to do, mail him a letter?”

Sharkey is remembered less for his title victory over Max Schmeling than for the controversial manner of his defeat to the ‘Ambling Alp’, Primo Carnera, in his first defense in 1933. Carnera, whose enormous size had been caused by a boyhood glandular disorder, was controlled by racketeers and had been built up through fixed fights. Carnera was thought to be an easy mark for Sharkey. But in the sixth round Sharkey went down from a punch which many ringsiders claimed they did not see. For the rest of his life Sharkey would face claims that his loss was rigged.

His final fight was against the up and coming Joe Louis. But this was 1936 and Jack Sharkey didn’t have the same legs, and Louis was a different kind of destroyer entirely. From the start of the fight, Sharkey foolishly waded into Louis’ punching range and found himself on the canvas three times before a combination put him down for the count in round three. Sharkey said to W.A. Hamilton after the fight, “Louis convinced me that I have no business in trying to continue, and now I am relegated with the others before me who tried to cheat time and nature only to be revealed in their true light.” After being knocked out by Joe Louis in the third round Aug. 18, 1936, Sharkey retired from the ring to open a restaurant in Boston and pursue his love of fishing.


A beaten Jack Sharkey decides to hang up his gloves after losing to Joe Louis.

Sharkey was and has been largely considered second best, however unfair that may be. He was, after all, a fisherman who found himself lacing up a pair of boxing gloves by accident, not a desperate pug who had nowhere else to go. That he made it into the big leagues of boxing is considered by many, incredible.


Boxer, fly fisherman, family man…

“I started out as a fisherman,” Sharkey told The Ring in 1979. “When I was a kid I used to catch bass with my bare hands and sell them. Old-timers still remember me walking down the street carrying eels on my back.”

Sharkey acquired further fame in retirement from his exploits as a fisherman who could land a fly on a dime. Jack Gartside, noted fly-tier and author of many angling books, said he lived a dry-fly cast away from Fenway Park in the 1950s when Williams and Sharkey were demonstrating fly casting at a sportsman’s show in Boston. “When I was 8 years old, I was at a sportsmen’s show at the old Mechanics Hall in Boston. Ted Williams and Jack Sharkey, the boxer, were conducting fly casting demonstrations,” Gartside said. “After the casting, they both went to a booth to tie flies.”


Sharkey, pictured left, sits with Jimmie Foxx (center) and Ted Williams (right) at a fly fishing exhibition.

One New Hampshire angler who replied to my request for information on the boxer / fly fisher said Sharkey was a hell of a fly fisherman. This man’s father fished with Jack on occasion and staked out his own spot on the bridge at Alton Bay, but woe betide the flatlander who took Jack’s spot! Sharkey was known to be irascible and cantankerous, particularly in later life.


Sharkey could tie – no small feat for a guy whose hands went through a lot of abuse in the ring!

Sharkey was Ted Williams’ fishing partner for many years. When asked which he liked better, boxing or fishing, Sharkey replied, “Fishing, it doesn’t pay as much but then the fish don’t hit back.”


Jack Sharkey had his last “boxing” contest with Max Schmeling decades after leaving the ring. Jack held the record as the oldest living former heavyweight champion, living to the ripe old age of ninety-one, only to be beaten by Schmeling, years later, who lived to be ninety-nine.


Boxing and fly fishing may seem odd bedfellows, and many might question my sanity as a follower of both sports, but after reading about Jack Sharkey, I’m feeling a bit better about fist and fly. In a sense, Jack Sharkey, our own Southern Tier hometown hero, battled for a living but lived for fly fishing. And isn’t that what most of us do in a figurative sense in our own lives? Sharkey, in my opinion, was a hero for the everyday sportsman – the guy who slogged it out in the trenches, just to marry, raise a family, and maybe, just maybe, eke out a little time with the long rod on a pretty river. Rest in peace, Jack…


The week ahead in fly fishing: July 23, 2017

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , on July 25, 2017 by stflyfisher

The lead paragraph on this weekly fly fishing report is beginning to sound like a broken record. The past week started out looking like it might be dry but ended up with some heavy localized downpours that sent some creeks, streams, and rivers into heavy turbid flows. Maybe it’s time to pray for dry weather?

Climate records for the Southern Tier continue to tell the same story: moderate to cool temps and lots of precipitation:


Fly Shop Talk: In his book, My Life Was This Big, Lefty Kreh talks about his stint in the US Army during WWII. While he was proud of his service (he fought in the Battle of the Bulge), Kreh and the US Army did not get along. “I hated the Army. Despised it. It ran counter to my lifelong instinct to make things better. I am an inveterate tinkerer and self-described inventor.” While the Army might not have appreciated Kreh’s inventiveness, the fishing world certainly did. Below is a picture of just one of Kreh’s nifty way of making fishing better. His first fly reel, a Pflueger Medalist purchased in 1947, was improved with a finger insert as a means of applying drag to the spool.

lefty reel


Here’s the week ahead report:

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

  • Cayuga Lake: Lake trout jigging is slow with occasional moments of good fishing. Bass season is underway. I expect jigging to pick up once this algae bloom clears up. When that happens is anyone’s guess.
  • Owasco Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing is fair here. Lake trout fishing is fair to good.
  • Skaneateles Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing is generally good. Rockbass and large perch remain in the mix. Water here is still relatively cold.
  • Seneca Lake: Laker jigging has shown some signs of improvement since the Memorial Weekend Derby. Fishing is fair.
  • Keuka Lake: Lake trout fishing should be fair to good here. Bass fishing has been good from what I’ve heard.
  • Otisco Lake: Tiger musky fishing has reportedly been slow for the most part. This lake muddies up easily and can be tough after heavy rains. There is an algae bloom going on here from what I heard.

Catskill Rivers:  

The Catskill Rivers have been in good shape and fishing well thanks to lots of rain and generally normal to cool temps. If fishing the freestones, however, “fish with your thermometer”.

  • The West Branch Angler is reporting that the weekend’s rains left some dirty water on most of the rivers but there still are a few spots that the storms avoided. Down at Hale Eddy it’s pretty dirty but dropping with a current flow of 938 cfs and 56 degrees. Up at Stilesville the flow is 374 cfs and 46 degrees and will be your best spot to fish down to Oquaga creek which is pumping in a decent amount of dirty water. The West could clear up enough by tonight to offer some decent opportunity. The East got hit pretty good with a flow of 2,360 and rising at Harvard and down at Fishs’ Eddy we have 2,410 cfs and 64 degrees. The main is going to be dirty as well with a flow of 3,310 and rising at 300+ cfs per hour. We should have some good streamer fishing on the West as the water drops over the next couple days.
  • The Delaware River Club is reporting that all the rivers in the system are up and off color. It looks like the rain is tapering off so the West Branch should drop and look a lot better tomorrow morning. The flow didn’t move much at Stilesville so the West Branch above Oquaga Creek should be in decent shape. If you go up there you should see some afternoon sulphurs and olives. It is still perfect for wading up there. Below Oquaga Creek it looks like a streamer from the boat kind of day. If the river drops quickly enough there is a slight chance of finding a few fish on top in the big pools so carry a dry fly rod too, but count on throwing streamers for the most part. Try dark streamers first in the off colored water.
  • Ken Tutalo of Baxter House Fly Fishing Outfitters reports that HOT, HOT HOT has been the weather pattern lately. Summer has it’s grip on the Upper Delaware region at this time. There is no better place to spend a hot day than out on the river so here are your options for fishing. Trout fishermen who plan on fishing in the coming days should be aware that a lot of the system has very warm water. The options for chasing trout at this time are the Upper East Branch, the West branch and the headwaters of the Beaverkill and Willowemoc. The best action is very early morning and again from near dark until after dark. Our guides have been on the water on both the Upper West and Upper East branches and they are getting some nice fish for our guests. The fishing is very technical now. As is always the case in summer you need to be proficient with long leaders, making accurate casts and floating drag free. This is what we teach and now is the time where conditions will demand near perfection. The insects will not change now. Sulfurs, Olives, Tricos, Midges and terrestrials. Small is the key on the waters that see the most pressure. (this is the entire West Branch). Isonychia and Cahills are about late day and you can take some of the more exuberant fish with these larger patterns. Nymphing has always been our go to approach for getting some numbers on the tailwaters and recently this is where the success has been best. You will still need perfect floats and long leaders. You will also need to be comfortable fishing the tiny stuff. All of my nymphs at this time are #18 or smaller on both 5X and 6X tippet. On a recent trip my guests had very good action fishing the pressured water and put about a dozen fish in the net. There is also a small population of anglers who head to the water after dark at this time of year. These are the hunters who fish mice, frogs, boppers, gurglers and huge streamers. These guys are doing well. Our guides have been taking some monster browns after dark some of which measure 25″ to 30″. If you think you want to give this a try call us today.


Slate Drake #12-2xl – 12 – Isonychia bicolor
Sulphur – #16 – 20 – Ephemerella dorothea
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella rotunda
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella invaria
Little BWO – #22 – 26- Pseudocloeon sp.
Blue Wing Olives – #18 – Baetis sp.
Little Tan Sedge – #16 – 18 – Glossosoma sp.
Green Caddis – #16 – Ryacophilia sp.
Tan Caddis #16 – 18 – Hydropsyche spp.

Local creeks: Local creek flows have been a yo-yo with the variable weather we’ve had. They will continue to rise and fall with the sporadic storms. To many anglers, these high water events are an excuse to fish elsewhere, but to creek-savvy anglers, change is a good word. Fishing after a high water event can be difficult but highly rewarding. Nymphing with big “nymphs” like cranefly larvae, worms, crayfish and hellgrammite patterns, can lure big browns waiting for the washdown of all sorts of food forms. Large streamers fished dead drift and on the swing can also take high water trout.

Warmwater Rivers: As discussed last week, forget about the warmwater rivers for now. I fished the lower Tioughnioga this past weekend and was surprised how full, fast, and turbid it was. The USGS gage chart looked decent, but the river was another story. With the squirrely weather we’ve been having, look to the headwaters of the smaller rivers like the Tioughnioga, Chenango, and Chemung for the first signs of dropping flows and clearing. But dropping gage charts don’t always mean the river is fishable.

susky 724

The Susquehanna River continues to tease…

Ponds: Ponds are a great place to fly fish right now. Largemouth bass are in summer mode and are more than willing to take a fly. As the water heats up and the sun is bright, it’s now time to shift fishing to early or late, but in the case of sunfish, any time of the day will work. Fishing the edges of weeds and around structure with wooly buggers, big nymphs, and streamers should remain effective, but topwater will also be effective especially in the early morning and towards evening.

Fly Fishing Events / Activities: Most local fly fishing clubs take a summer break starting with July, so there won’t be any activities or club/chapter meetings to report over the coming weeks. If an event pops up, I’ll try to capture it here.

The Week Ahead Weather: WBNG’s forecast is as follows:

We have a slow moving front to our south. With lows moving along this front we had rain and thunderstorms last night, leading to flash flooding. We will have a similar forecast today with rain and thunderstorms. The rain will taper to showers tonight.

A slight chance of showers on Tuesday as high pressure begins to move in. Nice weather on Wednesday with partly cloudy skies.

Another front will approach on Thursday with another round of rain and thunderstorms. A few showers could linger into Friday.

Nice weather for the weekend with partly cloudy skies and warm temperatures.

WBNG7Day (2)

A stick for Jeff…

Posted in Gear, Rod Building, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , on June 16, 2017 by stflyfisher

My son brought the box in and its long triangular shape immediately gave it away. It was, of course, “the rod”. As I opened the box I thought about what this fly rod symbolized: a payback to my brother-in-law.

Packaged neatly inside the box was a long clear sleeve with four glossy deep green sticks, a bag of rod guides in pewter grey, and a third bag that contained a cork grip and a rosewood reel seat. I was immediately smitten with the materials at hand.


My mind raced back in time to my first fly fishing experience. My brother-in-law, Jeff, took me fly fishing at my wife’s urging. I did not – could not have – realized the enormity of the event. That early morning the river was entombed in thick fog, the result of the warm early summer air over the very cold water of the tailwater. Jeff set me up with his new, expensive, Winston 3 weight, in nymphing mode – an indicator, 2 nymphs, and some weight, and instructed me how to fish the rig through a nice piece of riffle water. Then he headed downriver and vanished in the river fog.

You can probably guess what comes next – beginner angler’s luck – as if destined from the fly fishing gods. After a number of repeated lob casts, my indicator rocketed to the bottom and all it took was a lift of the rod and that wonderful butter brown flash. I landed the fish, much to the applaud of a couple of veteran anglers – a fat 18″ brown. But it was I who was truly hooked that day. So there it began, on the fabled West Branch of the Delaware River…


Looking downstream just above the Gentleman’s Pool – where it all started…

Fast forward many years, miles of wading, and a lot of fly fishing. Jeff returned to the West Coast for work, and though our distance made fishing together a once a year thing at best, we have remained close fly fishing brothers. We’ve done a few trips together – the San Juan River, the Bighorn. We’ve fished local Southern Tier rivers on occasion as well. Jeff is an excellent fly fisher, especially skilled with the dry fly. And since that epic day fishing with him, I have benefited from his advice and guidance and have improved my game from that first “angler’s luck” experience.

And then came along the start of our local FFI chapter – the BC Flyfishers. Joe Swam, featured in posts here before, is a very experienced bamboo rod maker who volunteered to teach a rod building class for the chapter. I signed up as a way to expand my fly fishing experience, learn more about how fly rods are made, and build a fly rod of my own.

The class was a success for the BCFF chapter and a great experience for me. I learned first hand from a master rod maker and completed the class with a really nice 8 weight fly rod I could use on local warmwater rivers as well as the salt.


My first fly rod served me well on the local warmwater rivers. Built with saltwater grade components, it now resides in Destin, Florida where it will live the rest of its life chasing saltwater trout, redfish, and jacks, among other saltie species.

Late in 2016, Jeff set up a guided trip to the Bighorn river in southeastern Montana. He typically spends a week on that river every year: I’ve only gone with him once but it was an incredible fishing experience and well worth a do-over. This would be a very special trip – one celebrating his 60th birthday – so unlike past years, I jumped at the chance to go.

With the birthday Bighorn trip in mind and the BC Flyfisher’s second annual rodbuilding clinic looming in 2017, I began to search for a fly rod I could build for Jeff as a 60th birthday present. I already had one rod under my belt – I could only get better with this rod, especially under the tutelage of Joe Swam.


Master rod maker, Joe Swam, does practice wraps and demonstrates the effect color preserver has on wrap color. BCFF chapter member Dennis See looks on.

And so the process began – first with searching for the right rod blank / kit. Jeff’s preference in a fly rod is for moderate action – what used to be referred to as a “dry fly” action. I chose the TFO Finesse rod – an 8 foot 9″ blank of moderate action with a sweet zone made for casting at “presentation” distances. Next came choosing the thread wrap color. I wanted a wrap color that matched the rich rosewood reel seat, and a pewter gray metallic thread for accent wraps. The red wrap color I chose came out perfectly – but note to neophyte rod builders out there – even color preservative will always alter the original color of the thread. In my case, my prediction that the brighter red thread would darken to a red wine color was spot on. Finding a metallic thread that would match the pewter guides and reel seat hardware was another matter. My initial choice of a pewter color was off, and the good folks at suggested I used a gunmetal grey thread which ended up an exact match. I’ll note that they sent the replacement thread free of charge: great customer service. And finally, I had to decide on the finish I’d use for the wraps. On my first rod, I used McCloskey’s marine spar varnish, provided by Joe Swam. I was very pleased with how my wraps came out. For this build, I decided to try Epifanes marine spar varnish. Originating in Holland, a nation with a strong maritime tradition, the name Epifanes, a Greek variation of EPIPHANY, denotes an appearance, a manifestation, a resplendence, or a moment of insight. I was very impressed with the result, and felt a company headquartered in Holland can’t be all wrong when it comes to maritime weather-proof varnish.

Then came the building. The winter snow hit the Southern Tier hard this year – we narrowly beat out Syracuse as the snowiest NY city with over 135″.

2017 snow

March, 2017 and a record 35″ of snow in 24 hours. In between shoveling, a rod was being made…

That made rod building a perfect winter activity, better in my opinion than working at the vise, though that too is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon with the white stuff flying cloaked in bitter cold…


Jeff’s stick on the rod wrapper. Saranac Legacy IPA, deep winter snow, and a warm fire make for beautiful guide and ferrule wraps.

I took my time with the build – the goal to ship the rod in time for Jeff’s July birthday. Every weekend, the winter through, I added to what started as graphite, cork, and a forms of metal. Measure twice, cut once, was the theme. Along the way a Lamson Waterworks fly reel was ordered, backing, a Scientific Angler’s Mastery Trout fly line, rod sock and a powder coated aluminum tube.

The wraps looked good, secured with color preservative, but it was the varnish that gave the rod that final touch. Every building coat deepened the luster…

And then came the finishing touch – that last coat of Epifanes over the measuring wraps on either side of a rainbow trout decal…


On either side of that rainbow trout decal, are 17″ and 20″ measuring wraps, soon to be broken by some Bighorn ‘bows on the dry fly…

Of course, glossy green graphite sticks, a rosewood reel seat, snake guides, wrapping thread, and the rich scent of spar varnish will never come close to the gift Jeff gave me – the gift of fly fishing. Even the feeling of satisfaction when a rod made with your own hands, carefully joined, and given that fly shop wiggle will never approach it. But perhaps building a fly rod is one of those things that continues the cycle of giving. Maybe that same rod will fall into the hands of another – a grandchild, a neighbor, or even a disabled veteran or cancer survivor. Lee Wulff once said, “The finest gift you can give to any fisherman is to put a good fish back, and who knows if the fish that you just caught isn’t someone else’s gift to you?” While Lee Wulff is credited for having started the catch and release initiative and greatly improved conservation efforts as a result, I’d argue that before the fish comes the creation of the fisherman and what better way to pay back or forward, than by building a fly rod and passing it on.


Deep bends, Jeff…