Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Flies With a Story: Randy Knapp's version of the Gurgle-pop

Randy Knapp sent me a great story of catching a 30" fish on a yellow Gurgle-pop and included a couple of photos of it he took in the dark.  He also has found that a slight modification of my pattern has rewarded him with a greater hookup percentage for sunfish.

You can read the story and see the pictures on the main Web site here:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fall Fishing begins

On Sunday morning as the temperatures began to climb over 50F, I decided to take a drive to one of my "spots" on the Millers River in central Massachusetts to see if I could catch some of the newly stocked trout. Fresh stockies was my only hope for trout, as I figured there would be no hold-overs this season.  After all, to date this is the warmest year (January through September) in history, and also one of the driest summers in Massachusetts history.

Many of the bigger rivers in Massachusetts get stocked both in the Spring and again in the Fall. October often has some of the best fishing of the season.  June if good too, but in October the air is clean and clear, and there are few anglers.

On this day, however, I got skunked.  One small fallfish (around here we erroneously call them "chubs") was all I managed to catch.  Even the smallies avoided me. But it was still a beautiful day, and after walking for an hour in the water upstream I figured at the very least I had gotten my aerobic exercise for the day.

Too, I had my camera with me.  Actually, I had two cameras. The old Pentax water resistant one, as always, was in my vest.  I used it to take the picture of the submerged maple leaf.  And in the car I had one of my newer point-and-shoots, the Panasonic LX5, which took the other two pictures below. 

Hope you enjoy the photos:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A few images from my day-trip to northern NH [Sep 19]

On Sunday the 19th, my friend Paul and I drove to northern New Hampshire for a day of fishing.  Unfortunately the water was a bit cooler and a bit higher than we were hoping for. As it turned out it was a great day of fishing but a poor day of catching! 

We each tagged a couple of bigger trout (stockies) in the morning and I did manage a couple of pictures (a rainbow and a brookie, posted below).  Each was caught with a parachute fly with a brightly colored post.  Mine had a pink post. Paul was using an orange post. 

That's Paul below drifting a dryfly:

In the early evening we picked up a handful of the smaller fish, as a caddis hatch broke out just before sunset. One of my most pleasant surprises was the picture immediately below.  It was actually three images overlapped and combined in photoshop to create a vertical panorama, though it has been cropped to a more normal aspect ratio.  I did this because the camera lens was not wide-angle enough to capture the water falling in the foreground plus the beautiful sky.

Additional Images (for non-New Englanders, that is the Mt. Washington Hotel at the bottom):

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My friend Steve sneaks in some bassin' while visiting his parents in Florida

I just got an email from my friend Steve, who has returned from a vacation visiting his parents who live in a condo in Sarasota, Florida. I had heard that lots of the "man-ponds" in the condo developments down there held some pretty big bass, so I was very interested in how Steve would make out when he told me the week prior that he planned to take a fly rod. I've included his email below and some of the pictures he sent me. Note the professional fly fishing outfit *grin*.
"I took my 8-1/2' 6-weight with me, and bought a few flies down there (Never again! Way too expensive.) I fished three times, and caught 2 bass each time. As you'll see from the photos, it was most productive half an hour before dark. I broke off two fish, one on a green deer-hair mouse and one one a popper. The mouse stopped floating, so I just twitched it along underwater. It just stopped, and when I pulled back on the rod, it didn't move at all, and then just broke off at the knot. It could have been a gator or a turtle, since it didn't behave like a bass. I then lost the popper during the ensuing fight, again at the knot. I then cut the leader back a bit, and didn't lose any more fish. I had to cut off a foam-bodied popper (gurgle bug?), since it just wouldn't come out of the fish's jaw. My last fly was another popper, which I still have.

"Most of the fish were pretty big, at least for me. Karen took all of the photos. I think I'll take a heavier rod with me next time (Nov.), since the rod I had didn't have enough backbone to lift the fish out of the water, and I was reluctant to stick my hand down into the water next to the bank to pick them up."

"All of the flies I used worked. (You have to love how aggressive largemouths are.) The fly I plan to tie and take in Nov. is very similar to the Gurgle Pop I saw on your blog. The body is sparkly chenille, the tail is bucktail, and the body is foam tied in the length of the hook with a "hood" in front to create the commotion when retrieved. If you look at the pictures closely, you'll see a chartreuse one in the jaws of a couple of fish. Unfortunately, it was stuck too deep in one fish for me to get it out, so I cut it off and threw the fish back into the water."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Unboxing of two Gurgle-pops from Randy Knapp

Randy Knapp sent me a couple of samples of a Gurgle-pop redesign that he has found to work well for him.  He emailed a great story, too, which I will be posting soon on the "Flies With a Story" page. 

(The original design is here.  His modifications can easily be made off the base design.)

Wait until you read the story he sent me!  And the pictures of an outrageous fish, of a sort you would not expect to catch on a dry fly.

In the meantime, here are a few pictures of my "unboxing" of the package he sent me this week:

The most obvious modification is the use of double strands of thin rubber.  It gives lots of action.  I've always used just one strand of thicker rubber.

The other modification is the hook and body length. Randy has used a longer hook while keeping the body short.  He finds this gives him a nice hookup.  Should be killer on those bluegills that strike short!

Geez, it looks like I need to cut my fingernails...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Six classic wet flies tied by Paul DiNolo

I have just created a page in the "Flies with a Story" section of, with pictures and pattern information for the six classic wets tied by Paul DiNolo (see my prior post for more information)

Here's the link to the new page:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Paul DiNolo to have an article published

My friend Paul is expecting an article he wrote about wet fly fishing to be published in September's On The Water magazine.  Paul is a frequent contributor to the magazine, and is known especially for his knowledge of small stream trout fishing. 

The magazine has two editions.  One edition concentrates on New England fishing and the other on New York and New Jersey.  Both appear to be more oriented toward salt-water fishing.  For example, of seven articles in the August issue, six are salt-water oriented. This orientation doesn't surprise me, as the magazine's headquarters are in East Falmouth, MA, on Cape Cod. 

You can buy a copy or subscribe to the magazine by going to their Web site, Back issues are available and their Web site also includes a "where to buy" list.

In preparing his materials for submission to the editor, Paul asked if I would photograph a selection of classic wet flies which he tied and delivered to me in the fly-box pictured below.

On my Web site's Flies with a Story page, I plan to post the individual images of each fly soon, along with some text and tying instructions from Paul.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fished a new spot on the Merrimack

There's no doubt about it, the Merrimack in New Hampshire is "big water".  This new spot for me is south of Manchester, NH. It is a favored spot for my friend Alberto, who has been hoping to show it to me for a couple of years.  But the river so swollen in the spring that it is often not until August that the water becomes wadeable, and last season I don't think it ever was.

This was a weekend morning and Alberto had family commitments.  I thought I would try it myself.  I was a bit intimidated by the water, having not fished it before.  I will be better the second time, but there were no other fisherman and I had the place to myself for a couple of hours before some kids arrived to walk their dog along the rocky beach.

In this shot I am essentially in the middle of the river, looking downstream.  The biggest fish were caught in the little open areas between clumps of grass.  They would attack and dart back into the grassy cover, fly in mouth.

The smallmouth were plentiful, but not big.  Shown here is a typical size.  In the slow moving area I caught two sunfish, shown here as well.  But I don't know what kind they are.  They're not Bluegills and they are not Pumpkinseeds.  I've caught Rock Bass before in water like this, but they usually have bigger and red eyes.  Can anyone identify them?

Nothing worked on the surface.  But coneheads, beadheads and weighted nymphs and streamers were very effective.  Pictured below are the flies I used.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

First day-trip of the season to northern New Hampshire [2010Jul24]

I took a drive way up into northern New Hampshire last Friday with my fishing buddies Paul, Steve and Jim. I don't do as many of these marathon day-trips as the others do, but several trips spread out over the summer is lots of fun.  On this day, we were together 14 hours.  I figure it was about 6 hours of driving, 6 hours of fishing and a couple of hours eating three meals.

As is our tradition, we stopped from breakfast on the way up. Poor Boys is a new spot. Breakfast was very good. It's off exit 5 on route 93, in Londonderry, NH.

The fishing was very good too, especially the Ammonoosuc. Most of the fish are small native brooktrout. The one shown here is a bit bigger than average. I think in four hours of fishing in this spot (before moving onto the Peabody for two more hours of fishing) we each caught over 50 trout.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I've added a "fly with a story" from Phil L. of Germany

Last year I received a nice email from Germany from Phil.  He was excited about the Hare & Herl Bugger pattern and sent me a few pictures of a successful outing using this fly.

He also sent me a sample of his version of the fly.  I have uploaded the story and his pictures, and a photo I took a few days ago of his version on this effective pattern.

You can check it all out here:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A strategy for finicky panfish during the "dog days of summer"

I heard on the evening news last night that this has been the warmest first six months of the year (overall, for the entire country) in history.  Since we don't have central air-conditioning at our house, we have been suffering these last few weeks.  I don't think the fish like it either.

Locally there's not a chance that I will fish for trout.  Some will find underground springs to help them holdover, but my guess is that a lot will die off. 

So, I fished again today from my floattube for bass and panfish.  But the fishing on my favorite farm pond was as slow as I have ever seen it.  I fished the first 30 minutes without any action, trying topwater poppers and hoppers and gradually fishing deeper and deeper.   Nothing.

Thinking about what other strategy I could try, I felt a need to fish something smaller and deeper.  If I had some really heavily weighted small nymphs I would have tried them. Something like a Copper John would have been excellent. But, sometimes the best strategy for getting small nymphs down deep without adding more weight is to make adjustments to your leader.

I was fishing my standard panfish leader:  A 6 foot tapered leader with about 2 feet of tippet added.  That usually means a 3x tippet as that nicely turns over the poppers and buggers.  To get deeper, I added about 3 feet of 5x tippet to the 2 feet of 3x tippet to create a 10 1/2 foot leader.  I attached a beadhead and went to work.  The 5x tippet material helped the beadhead sink because its thinner diameter sliced and sank through the water better.  It also placed the fly further from the end of the floating fly line. Once the fly is down deep, it is important to move the beadhead only slightly because when you strip the line the beadhead will move up in the water column, and away from the fish.

This worked great.  I kept the line barely taught and waited for the subtle "tap, tap, tap".  The first beadhead was a size 12 herl body nymph with a short tail of rabbit fur.  Basically, my "Hare & Herl Bugger" without the hackle.  I managed to catch some big bluegills, and I also managed to loose a couple of fish that got wrapped around lily pads or underwater structures.  With 3x I can usually coax them toward me, but 5x is a different story.

I then moved to an even smaller nymph.  Probably a 14, but it had no tail.  Just a bead head, white wool body and a couple of wraps of white hackle tied aft, rather than in front.  Little white grubs like this work well for me during the summer.  I find this interesting because usually I find dark colors better.  To really change things up, try a white grub on a scud hook.  This gives the nymph a little wiggle.  Unfortunately, the scud hook grub was another fly I was without today.  I would have tried it next.

Below is a picture of what was perhaps the largest (almost 10")  bluegill of the day, followed by the largest (and only) Pumpkinseed.  Pumpkinseeds don't get quite as large as bluegills.  At nearly 9" this was a big one.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

First outing at the "Land of the Nuclear Sunfish"

Every year I look forward to my first day on a local farm pond my brother calls "The land of the Nuclear Sunfish".  That's because the sunfish are very large here, especially for New England.

On this first outing of the year I caught more small ones than usual, but nevertheless most measured an honest 8.5" to 9.5" in length.  The largemouth bass here are big too, and I do catch a fair bunch of smaller ones (under 14"); but mostly the big ones are there for the baitcasters who can stand in their boats and yank them out of the weeds.  We're all helped by the fact that this is a catch-and-release fishery.

This is a float tube pond.  Wetlands surround the pond and the lily pads around the circumference is dense.  Fortunately there's a dock that I can use to get myself in and out of the water.  From here I usually take about 3 hours to circle the pond once, in counterclockwise fashion, then I go home.

The yellow gurgle-pop popper has always been my favorite for surface play.  These sunfish like big flies, so I tie my foam poppers on a size 6 barbless (Cabela's) dry fly hook.  The size of the hook may be one reason I catch the bigger sunfish (and why I catch generally the smaller bass). I often fish an entire outing with nothing but this size 6 yellow foam popper.

But this day I had a new experience.  Half way through my morning I lost the third and last guggle-pop in my box, when a very large (I presume) bass broke me off around lily pads. 

Searching my box for anything foam, I spied in the corner two samples of a foam hopper pattern I had first tied when "razor foam" was a new product. I hadn't fished this pattern for a while.  And, when I last used it, it was probably on a smallmouth river.

Long story short, the fished loved this fly.  It's thinner than my poppers and due to the bullet head it will not "pop".  Maybe this, or the black body, are the features the fish were attracted to!  The sad news is that I lost both of these foam hoppers before I finished fishing; but the good news is that the second one was lost just minutes before reaching the dock to go home!

It's been a while since I have tied flies, but now I will have to: Gurgle-pops and foam hoppers!


Additional Image

Not caught with a foam popper or hopper, I did catch a few on a streamer early in the day when the water was coolest.  This bluegill is nearly 10" long.  It was the catch of the day.

Friday, July 2, 2010

My annual day-trip to Vermont

Last week I took my annual trip to Vermont with my friend Paul. Paul enjoys frequent day-treks north to Vermont and New Hampshire from his home south of Boston. It's a heck of a lot of sitting for a day trip, even with Paul doing all the driving, so generally two or three one-day trips per season is just the right amount for me.

Paul has been fishing small streams in Vermont for nearly 40 years, so he's a great guide. He's currently working on a small stream fly fishing book, which will be published by the folks from the magazine On the Water. I'm flattered that he's asked me to supply some photographs. I'll keep you posted on his project.

On this particular trip it was just Paul and me. But frequently we squeeze three people (driver plus two) into Paul's Suburu Forrester. Talking is the main activity in the car. Lot's of good conversation. (I remember when we were lost driving backroads in Vermont at night two years ago, we had a rather long and indepth conversation about ice cream.) We normally reach Warren, NH off of Rt.89 around 9 am for breakfast at the Foothills. On weekends there's a hefty waiting line, but on Friday after 9 am we had the place to ourselves.

Then its on toward White River Junction where we cross the Connecticut River and enter Vermont.

Today's trek was going to be a long one. Paul wanted to show me the Lamoille River, north of Burlington in what is known as the Northeast Kingdom. I don't know exactly where we were but it was near the covered bridge shown below, when we started fishing. Generally, the plan is to get one or two hours of fishing before a late lunch of sandwiches, chips and fruit from the cooler. Then a few more hours of fishing until dinner. And finally an evening of fishing the hatch, until dark. Getting home at midnight is typical.

This day we made a couple of stops before we started fishing. Though my breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, and homemade wheat bread had been perfectly adequate, I decided I needed to partake in another cup of coffee and a fresh apple cider donut from the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. Paul stops there whenever he is near, to buy a dozen doughnuts or two to take home to his family.

We also stop at local fly shops to find out more about water conditions. In this case it was Green Mountain Troutfitters. Unfortunately we were to find out that the water was a bit high and discolored due to rain the prior night. I was very impressed with the completeness of this little fly shop and guide service. Paul bought some waders.

As good as the water looked on the Lamoille, neither of us were able to turn a single fish during a couple of hours of trying. We covered a lot of water with Paul going upstream and me going downstream, but nothing was moving. So, we got out of our waders and drove east toward St. Johnsbury and then south along the NH/VT border.

We finally settled in on a small stream on which Paul has never seen another angler. Here we had some luck. Nothing to really brag about but I think we were both happy to hook 7-8 native brook trout apiece. By then it was about 5:30 and together we decided that it was unlikely that there'd be an evening hatch, that we'd had a great day, and that we'd take a slow drive home. I got home about 9pm. Not a lot of fish for a long day, but the more I fish the more I realize that (for me at least) it's not about the fish. It's about the day.


Additional Images

Native brookie takes my parachute.

This is my favorite dry fly for small streams.  It's a bit bushy and this sample is definitely not "exhibition" quality.  But the bushy parachute post really helps me follow the fly as it is landing and as it drifts in and out of shadows on water that is usually a bit frothy or bubbley.  Difficult to tell because the body is wet, but it is made with 3 or 4 stands of peacock herl, wrapped around the shank.  This one lasted the entire day and I never switched flies. It caught 7-8 brookies and an equal number of low-lying tree limbs.