Archive for Joe Cambridge

BC Flyfishers “simply tie” with guide flies

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

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

killer bugs

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

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

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

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


“The Frenchie”

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

utah killer bug

The Utah Killer Bug

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


Tim’s Simpupa

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


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

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

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

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

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

fatal attraction

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


Galloup’s Butch Caddis (courtesy of

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


The Sparkle Dun

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

fly tying

Happy Guide Fly graduates…


The week ahead in fly fishing: March 6, 2107

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Flies - Local Favorites, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 6, 2017 by stflyfisher

March officially came in like a lamb. With a high of 60 degrees and a low of 47, there was no doubt in the way March opened. But a day later that all changed. Temperatures plunged, the wind blew hard enough to knock down limbs and cause power outages, and the lake effect snow started dusting the hilltops. With a high of 47 and low of 21, March 2nd seemed to try and turn the month to a lion-like start. And it just got worse over the weekend, with temperatures hitting the single digits and in some areas, negative numbers.

Fly shop talk: Joe Cambridge taught this past week’s BCFF fly tying class and for those who attended and listened attentively, there were a lot of kernels of fly fishing wisdom that came with his class. I’ve captured some of them here for the benefit of all:

  • Less is more in fly tying. Cambridge repeated to take a small amount of dubbing, for example, and if it seemed right cut it in half. He repeated this advice in tying the Fatal Attraction streamer. Too many streamers are tied with too much material.
  • Chewed flies fish better. Joe told a story about an old-timer he fished with who would insist on giving the younger Joe a new replacement fly after he’d caught a few fish on the fly he was using. Youner Joe thought he was getting the better end of the bargain, getting new flies, but soon learned differently when the older, wiser, angler out-fished Joe.
  • Joe discussed fishing a streamer he loves to use on the Finger Lake tribs – the Fatal Attraction. He prefers to dead drift the streamer, then make it look like a helpless minnow struggling against the current, rather than stripping it aggressively. “How many minnows have you seen attack trout?”
  • Soft hackles can be deadly. Joe told the story of fishing with a relative in Scotland who gave him a box of wet flies when he returned to the USA. Joe looked at them and dismissed them as being effective for being so sparsely tied. Years later he was fishing to trout that were taking emergers and could not hook a fish. After trying everything he discovered the box of soft hackles and thought, ‘what do I have to lose’. He immediately took fish after fish and became a believer in this fly type. And so did an old angler who asked what he was using. Joe gave the angler a soft hackle and he too began to take fish. A while later he offered Joe $5 a fly for every one of the soft hackles he had in his fly box.

One version of the Partidge and Orange, an old time soft hackle. Note the bump of dubbing behind the hackle. Joe Cambridge feels this dubbing thorax helps keep the hackle from collapsing around the body of the fly. Picture courtesy of

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

Great Lakes / Finger Lakes tributaries: The Douglaston Salmon Run continues to report lackluster results but these appear to be largely connected to weather conditions and high river flows. Whitaker’s also reports that very few anglers have been on the water over the last couple of days and as a result, they are not getting many reports.


Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone reports that water temperatures are in the 39/41 degree range on the surface of the larger Finger Lakes.


  • Cayuga Lake:  Fly-fishing  and casting with gear has been productive for landlocked salmon and brown trout along with occasional rainbows and lakers.  Lake trout jigging is also productive.  The water level is low and launching and retrieving boats could be a hassle for some. Perch/Pickerel action should be good up north. Pickerel/pike season closes on March 15th.
  • Seneca Lake:  Fishing is currently fair to good for landlocked salmon and brown trout.  Very few boats were out of Watkins Glen perch fishing when we went out.  Expect fair to good pike fishing. Pike season closes on March 15th.
  • Keuka Lake:  Lake trout fishing should still be good here.
  • 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.

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

  • The Twin Tiers Five Rivers chapter of IFFF will be holding its next monthly chapter meeting on Monday, March 6th. Make sure to mark your calendars because this will be a good one. Joe Goodspeed, Sales Rep. for Thomas and Thomas, will be visiting to talk about Fly Fishing for Muskies. Joe is known for being a very diversified fly fisher who thinks outside the box and targets many different species. His talks are always interesting. Prior to his presentation, Joe will be tying a fly he uses for musky fishing. Joe always has some interesting stories and techniques to share, so you will not what to to miss this presentation. Fly tying demo will start at 6:30 pm, with the presentation starting at 7:00, at the Big Flats Community Center, 476 Maple Street, Big Flats.
  • The BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF held the third of a series of four fly tying classes  on Saturday, March 4. The class is focused on tying guide flies – flies known for their simplicity and high effectiveness in fooling fish. Local tyer and fly fisher, Joe Cambridge, taught Saturday’s lesson with some great flies like the Partidge and Orange Soft Hackle, the Peacock and Starling Soft Hackle, and the Fatal Attraction Streamer. These flies will all work very well in our local waters. While the class is closed to new participants, the public is welcome to come, observe, and learn more about fly tying, fly fishing, and the BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF. If interested, read more here. The next class will be held on Saturday, March 11 at 9 am in the basement meeting room of the Endicott Public Library. On hand to teach will be Kevin Gilroy, BCFF chapter member and professional fly tyer.
  • The BC Flyfishers will be holding its next chapter meeting on Thursday, March 23rd at 7pm, with an informal fly tying demo at 6:30 pm. Rick Cramer, owner of Troutfitter Fly Shop in Syracuse will be the speaker and his presentation will be on expanding your trout fishing horizons to include streams around Syracuse. Troutfitter is one of the very few quality fly fishing shops in our area. Rick will tell us about his shop, provide us with discount cards, and acquaint us with more trout fishing locations in the in the Syracuse area.  Specifically, Rick will talk about Otselic River, Skaneateles Creek (and Lake), Oriskany Creek and Chenango Canal, and Fabius Brook. Find out where to access them, what flies to use, and Rick’s favorite spots. Rick will be handing out maps showing access points so bring a pencil to add your notes on best locations.  Why be stuck fishing the same local venues? It’s time to add new scenery and locations to your fishing repertoire. Come and join us and bring a friend.
  • The Eastern Waters Council of IFFF, parent organization of the BC Flyfishers and Twin Tiers Five Rivers chapter, is having a contest to bring in new members, called “Giving the Gift Of Membership”. The contest is to encourage current members to buy an IFFF membership as a gift to a fly fishing friend, fishing buddy, or family member. You will be entered in a raffle for a new Sage Rod and Reel. To enter the contest, call Kat Mulqueen (406-222-9369 X106) at IFFF headquarters, tell her you are from the BCFF chapter or TTFR chapter, Eastern Waters Council and that you want to participate in the Giving the Gift of Membership. You will need to provide the giftee name, address and email and pay for their membership. There is also a prize for the club that brings in the most new members. You will be helping your buddy, your Club and the IFFF, and you will be eligible to win an awesome new rod and reel! The contest ends May 1st.

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

Parade Day shaped up to be the coldest Parade Day in the last 16 years. The next coldest Parade Day was in 2013 when the high temperature was only 25 degrees. Saturday’s high topped out at 15 degrees. Sunday looks to be about 20 degrees warmer than it was on Saturday, with highs in the low-30s for most. Our weather looks to stay quiet for the next few days, as Monday will have temperatures in the low-40s with high pressure and dry conditions dominating.

We are tracking our next low-pressure system that looks to trek north of the United States through southern Canada for the first half of the week, dragging a warm front, then a cold front, across our area Tuesday and Wednesday. Temperatures Tuesday look to climb into the 50s for most, with the passing cold front bringing the best chance of rain showers.

As temperatures fall behind the cold front, some of the lingering precipitation could be snow or lake-effect snow.