Sunday, September 13, 2015

A good day of fishing starts with a good breakfast

Yesterday was likely my last day of trout fishing this season, at least in the streams of northern New Hampshire.  The water is very low and with so little volume, water temperatures drop rapidly.  It puts the fish off, though the season is open for a few more weeks.

Things were a little slow yesterday, though we each (my friend Paul and I) were happy with the results, all things considered.  Perhaps a dozen wild trout each. Of course, all were returned from whence they came... to grow bigger for our return next season!


Poor Boys is one of our favorite spots for breakfast.  It's off exit 5 on Route 93 in New Hampshire.  What you see is one order!  It's the special and it's $10. But to be honest, the two blue berry pancakes left with me in a Styrofoam clam shell with a number of little jelly packets ... to become jelly sandwiches later in the day. The three eggs, three sausage links, raisin toast and hash browns were plenty for breakfast. In fact, I didn't touch food again until about 2p.

Poor Boys Diner.  The breakfast special for $10.


It was a beautiful day in the Pinkham Notch area of New Hampshire.  We saw no other fishermen.  These trout are so skittish when the water is low and the sun is high, that it is important to find water where the fish have not yet been spooked that day.

The water was lower than we wanted and the fish were less active than we wanted.  But it really didn't make a difference with regard to the fun we had.  Below is a typical scene.

Typical scene yesterday, though this stretch was a bit too shallow and slow to hold
fish on this day and at this time.  You can make out Paul
changing up a fly among the rocks on the right.

My well-used and slightly beaten up parachute from a nearly a full day of fishing:

This is the fly that worked best for me yesterday. YES, it's a bit beaten up.
Except for the first fish, after which I lost a herl body version of this in a tree,
this one served me well for the remainder of the day.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

More from Paul about the Dark Edson Tiger

My friend Paul DiNolo recently sent me the following remarks:

Hi Peter,

The "Dark Edson Tiger" streamer has been one of my "go-to" flies for over thirty-five years. The pattern has a long and distinguished record as a highly successful streamer, especially for those anglers who fish the Rangeley Lakes region of western Maine. The fly was originated by Bill Edson of Portland, Maine in either 1928 or 1929.

The Rangeley lakes district was the spawning ground for many famous streamer fly designs, and a wide variety of tying styles evolved which would provide the development of some historically effective patterns like the Grey Ghost, the Black Ghost, the Colonel Bates, the Supervisor, the Nine-Three, and both the Dark Edson Tiger and Light Edson Tiger to name a few.

With all the possible choices, I was almost immediately  attracted to the Dark Tiger. The reason made perfect sense to me. It looked like the simplest fly to tie and it didn't require a large assortment of expensive or hard to get materials.

I started by looking up the tying sequence and discovered that there seemed to be no one definitive pattern, but with only minor variations they were all about the same, and they all performed quite well. Edson's originals featured "real" jungle cock eyes. When these got to be too expensive he tied in little pre-formed brass cheeks to suggest eyes. There have been other small modifications, but the Dark and Light Tigers remain very effective to this day.

I tie my Tigers in a few different sizes, depending mostly on the kind of water that I'll be fishing, and the angling methods that the various stream conditions dictate.

This sample was tied by Paul DiNilo "to be fished".  

On bigger rivers, I will cast a size #6 or size #4  5-x long Tiger quartering downstream and let the fly swing until the fly is directly  downstream. Then I will strip the fly in with a varied erratic retrieve. If nothing happens, I will take a step or two downstream and repeat the process. This might not be the most exciting type of angling, but it does work well. However, this is not my favorite type of fishing. Given a choice, my first instinct is to fish dry flies on the riffles, runs and pockets of the beautiful little mountain streams that criss-cross  much of northern New England.

When the trout don't seem inclined toward surface feeding activity, I have no moral dilemma regarding going down to the trout's level with streamers, nymphs, and wet flies. The geometry of these small streams will not allow wide down and across swings. Fishing the small pockets and runs of a small headwater brook requires accurate short line casts aimed to a point just above a suspected trout location.

Tied by Paul DiNolo according to the original recipe that
specifies a gold tag and jungle cock eye.

In these situations I usually fish a size #10 or size #12 4-x long version of the Tiger. When I get the fly in the right spot, I will retrieve the fly back in a series of short twitches. When possible, I like to bring the fly forward, and then let it slide back as if it were a minnow fighting a losing battle against the stream flow. This technique can present you with some surprises. If you find the time to go north for a trout fishing day trip, try teasing some of these in front of little wild trout. It could open the door to some very rewarding angling.

---Paul DiNolo

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A fun project while waiting for my back to get better

I took a couple of days off from work this week to help my back mend from a mishap last Sunday. [I am writing this on Saturday, six days after the "accident".]

Before I get to the fishing-with-flies part of the story, let me say that I am a big fan of AAA.  I have been a fan because of the great help our local branch has been in arranging details for our last four two-week car trips (two "out west" and two in the Maritime Provinces of Canada).

I am an even bigger fan now.  I had never used roadside assistance before last Sunday, but in the future, should I ever get a flat tire again, AAA will be "Plan A".  Not "Plan B"!!

After I got my flat tire I was able to get off the road and even parked under a shade tree on flat level ground.  The temperature was nevertheless over 90F.  I am too old for this!

I used my Toyota Sienna manual to assist me in locating all the parts needed to change the spare tire.  (I have just learned that some new cars don't even come with a spare tire. Yikes.)  I couldn't believe it, but my spare tire is actually under the middle of the car and must be lowered by rotating a nut under the carpet under the second row of seats.  When you have lowered the little doughnut tire all the way to the pavement, you need to crawl under the car and retrieve it.  I nearly burned myself on the hot pavement.

Next, I proceeded to unscrew the lugs.  Or, I should say I "tried" to unscrew the first lug nut.  But the freaking lug wrench is only 12" long!  What kind of leverage can I get from that, even if I stand on it and jump up and down, which I did after first wrenching my back trying to pull the dang lug wrench up. My back was killing me.  I learned later from a friend that he had experienced the same set of events two years ago and after hearing a "pop" in his back was at first unsure whether he should then call 911 or AAA!  I called AAA.  I was lucky I think.  I only waited 45 minutes, and in the meantime I limped slowly to a Dunkin Donuts only about 100 feet up the street.  I treated myself to a ice coffee with two shots of caramel and two creams, and then decided that a couple of doughnuts would ease the pain.


So... while at home resting and healing this week I coincidentally received a new photographic toy that I wanted to use with my fish fly photography.  I've never had too much luck using a flash with close up photos of flies.  But this new contraption emits light from a larger area, which helps prevent the "hot spots" or bright reflections off of shiny surfaces that I get with a flash.  

It's a bank of LED lights and this is designed for video as it provides constant lighting. It slides right into the hot shoe of any camera.  It is a plastic fitting so I need to be careful.  On the other hand, I expect to use it only for fly photography and always indoors.  Unlike a flash, with constant lighting "what you see is what you get".

Here are a few product shots.

About 50 bucks

The fly is there to help you gauge the size of this

Angled forward toward the camera here, it appears bigger than it is.

Below is what I did with this set up.  These are the Edson Tigers you may have read about in the last few posts.  I like how these turned out.  The colors are brought out nicely.  I do think I should have backed away a bit or zoomed out slightly to provide more space around the fly.  The way they are here, the larger ones are too tightly cropped.

All are tied by Paul DiNolo.

From smallest to largest hook size:

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Dark Edson Tiger. Reinforcements have arrived.

Yes, reinforcements have arrived to fill the breach! After my tying and fishing friend Paul heard that I'd lost my one and only Dark Edson Tiger (which he had given me at a recent trout stream sorté), he tied up a fresh batch in several sizes and variations and mailed them to me.

A couple of posts ago (here and here) I reported on how much fun I'd had with this fly, and that I was disappointed to lose it at a time on a warm-water river when it was proving itself to also be a smallmouth bass streamer of substantial prowess.

Paul has also volunteered to send me some text for a follow up posting.  It will provide additional information about the history of this old fly and how he likes to fish it.  He's been fishing this pattern for over 35 years so I, for one, will listen to what he has to say!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Another day at the Millers River. Trying to think like a stonefly.

It was a hot and humid day on Sunday so I chose a section of the Millers with a straight section running northeast to southwest.  This meant that the prevailing southwesterly breeze could provide me with some natural cooling as I fished for a couple of hours.

I started here and walked downstream

The water was lower than it had been on Friday and along the exposed rocks (not in view here) I could see the dried shucks left by emerged stoneflies.  I figured if I chose a dark fly about the same size at the shucks, that I would be into fish.

Stonefly shuck

One of my favorite flies is from a batch sent to me by Jim LaFevers of Texas.  He calls then Double Hackles.  I wrote about this pattern here and here and here.

"Double Hackle"

I did catch quite a number of smallies deep in the pool created by the back eddie seen in the near side of the first image above.  But most of the fish were up along the rocks of the near side, and for a hundred yards downstream.

Were they there waiting for stoneflies nymphs to migrate to the edge of the river?  Regardless, the olive double hackle did very well for me. It's a sturdy fly, too.  I caught perhaps two dozen smallies of the usual Millers River size (9-10") and the fly still looks as good as new.

This is a dark river, and the fish tend to be dark, too.

I also managed to snap a few photos of colorful flowers or interesting vegetation along the edge of the river, as I walked downstream.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Argh. I lost my only sample of the Dark Edson Tiger

In my last post I wrote about enjoying a bit of streamer fishing for trout on a couple of small NH streams, using a Dark Edson Tiger tied by my friend Paul. So, this past Friday I thought it might be nice to skip the office and head off to the Millers River for smallmouth bass fishing, again with the D/E/T tied to the end of my leader.

The Dark Edson Tiger was terrific.  I've always felt that yellow is a good color for bass, and on this day the D/E/T proved me right.

The smallies (that I catch anyway) on the Millers are not large.  Most are around 9-10"; but, they are strong fighters and good jumpers.  I enjoyed myself immensely.


After perhaps a dozen bass I managed to lose not just my only Dark Edson Tiger, but my tippet and the first section of my leader, all on an underwater tangle of logs and branches.

Thankfully, reinforcements are on the way!  Paul has tied up a half dozen or so and mailed them to me.  They should be sitting on my desk at the office tomorrow.

The Millers River.  This is darker than normal,
due to heavy rain a couple of days prior.

The typical Millers' smallie is 9-10". There are buckets of them.

My best guess is that the smallies like the yellow color and the painted eyes of this Edson Tiger.
About 1 out of 3 smallies on the Millers are nearly black, like this 10-incher.

Monday, July 13, 2015

My introduction to fishing the Dark Edson Tiger

This past Saturday I fished a couple of cold water mountain streams in northern New Hampshire with two good fishing buddies, Paul and Jim.   It's a long day-trip, and we get home late at night; but despite the "windshield time", I enjoy taking these all-day excursions several times each fishing season.

The long drive goes fast because of the conversation and the anticipation of a day filled with wild trout. However, before the actual fishing part of the day begins, we always buoy ourselves with a big decadent breakfast of eggs, meat, and pancakes.  Though I was pretty conservative on this day (see image below), the typical menu item I pick (as did Paul on this day) is something like "Lumberjack Special" or "Hungry Farmer Platter". Even with all the driving, talking and eating, we had our boots in the water a little after 10a.

Peg's Restaurant in Woodstock NH.  A good start to the day:
hash and eggs and a short stack of blueberry pancakes,
with a serving of real maple syrup on the side.

We split up at car.  I gave Jim a spare key, and he went upstream armed with a dry fly, and Paul and I headed downstream.  In most cases while moving downstream I will fish a beadhead or peacock body woolly bugger.  (And then a dry fly on the way back upstream.) Paul on the other hand relies on a 35-year favorite, a dark Edson tiger. That's right. He's been loyal to this streamer for 35 years. It looks the part, as it is an old-fashioned design from a time when flies were simpler and tying materials less varied and certainly less exotic. If I believe my google search, the original Dark Edson Tiger formula was designed by Bill Edson in 1928 or 1929.

Compared with Paul's version below, the original lacked the eyes, had jungle cock cheeks, yellow hackle tips for a tail, a gold tinsel tag, and red squirrel wing, though I have seen variations to this as well.

Not quite the original recipe, but it works.
Below are images from the trip, included a couple of the brookies who fell to the charms of the Dark Edson Tiger.

I did fish a dry fly coming back upstream.
But all I caught was this tree hanging over an alluring pool.


Jim's wife, Susan, packed us some of these bad boys.
I hope she'll share the recipe with me!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Mearns Quail beadhead nymph

A couple of posts ago I reported on staying home from work to tie a few flies. I had tied a dozen beadhead nymphs days before with a Hungarian Partridge skin, and wrote about that here. The morning I played hooky, I wanted to tie a dozen smaller nymphs.

I chose a Mearns Quail skin.  It is smaller than a Hungarian Partridge, or at least this sample of a hen skin is. Both are called "upland birds", and have a similar feather structure. All I needed was one or two of these smaller feathers to tie a nice fly on a size 12 2xl hook.  The results varied somewhat depending on the size of each feather, and depending on whether I tied with or without a tail. The hook used was a size 12 Mustad 72R.

Use the same tying technique as described in the Partridge beadhead nymph step-by-step procedure here.

The Mearns quail rump feathers are perfect for a size 12 2xl hook,
like the Mustad 72R.  I used one feather for the one on the left.
I used two feathers (tip 1/2 only) to make the one on the right.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Hungarian Partridge Beadhead Nymph: Two variations

The Hungarian Partridge nymph post from the other day represents a tried-and-true recipe I have been using for perhaps four or five years.  However, after about a dozen flies, my mind begins to wander and I start substituting materials "just for fun".  After tying a bunch with the original instructions, I tied up a bunch that looked like these two:

Two Beads

The two beads go onto the hook first.
The first feather creates the tail and abdomen.
I then pull the glass bead up tight against the abdomen and tie off the thread.
Then tie in the thread between the two beads and do the
dubbing loop thing with the second feather to create the thorax and legs.

Less the Tail 

A tailess variation. Tied the same as the original instructions except that the first
feather is tied with the tip pointing toward the bead

I have not tried either one of the variations in the water.  But I have no doubt that they will work nicely.

I am thinking of tying a batch with a glass beadhead only.  They might be nice when I don't want the fly to sink as far as it would with a metal beadhead.

Friday, May 29, 2015

I just had to go to work late today

I had fully intended to put in a full day at work today.  But when I got up this morning, it was just too nice a day.  We'd had a couple of hot and humid days (for May, not if it were August) and I really get bummed out by heat and humidity.  But last night thunder boomers came through plus a little rain.  Some towns got 2" balls of hail.  That, of course, is really nothing to complain about when you see the flood devastation going on in Texas.

As the storm front passed through last night, cool air followed.  The AC was turned off and all the windows were opened.  The result: glorious 70F air this morning and a dew point below 60.  We live near wetlands, and everything smelled so nice and damp.  I could even smell the earth.  The irises popped open.  Our screen porch was delightful.  The birds were churping.  The coffee tasted great.  And I didn't have to be at work until 11a!

Ah, what a morning.

After I finished my coffee on the screen porch, I just couldn't find the gumption to get ready for work.  I decided another cup of strong coffee was in order and I sat down at my tying desk and tied up a few nymphs,while slurping on a cup of bold joe.  Then I tied a few more....  Then a few more.  I used the pattern I posted the other day here.  But today I went with a smaller hook (size 12 Mustad 72R 2xl), smaller bead and a smaller upland bird pelt.  I used a beautiful "Mearns quail hen" skin.

Mearns quail hen

The rump feathers are a pinkish tan color.  When tying in the feather tip ever so slightly, which I did in the sample shown in the vise below, there is generally enough feather "rope" to cover the shank with just one feather, finishing off with the fluffy stuff behind the beadhead.

Size 12 Mustad 72R hook.
Tied with one twisted feather and one glass bead.

A nice way to spend Friday morning.
And I still got to the office in time for my 11a meeting!

(No I'm not at Starbucks in Banff. The mug is a souvenir from a trip three years ago.)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hungarian Partridge Nymph

During recent years many of my nymphs and buggers have been made entirely from one or two soft hackle feathers, usually marabou type feathers from Turkey, Quail and Partridge. They are made with a conehead or beadhead, and the fish gobble them up.

Here are a couple of links to other flies I have constructed with these feathers and for which I have previously provided step by step instructions:

Conehead Combo

One-feather Fly

The Hungarian Partridge Nymph

The Hungarian Partridge Nymph is made along the lines of the one-feather fly, except that I am using two feathers.  Partridge feathers are nicely sized for the hook I am tying with in the step by step pictures below, a Tiemco #5263 size 10.

The first feather serves as a tail and abdomen.  The second feather serves as a thorax and a bunch of legs, and is applied with a dubbing loop.

The best feathers for the tail and abdomen are the ones with long fibers that point toward the tip of feather.  When you tie the tip onto the shank, you capture a good percentage of the barbs. If you have an entire partridge skin, the best feathers for this will be flank feathers, and not feathers from the neck, saddle, or back.

Below are the two feathers that I used in constructing the fly below. See how the barbs are angled toward the tip?

Here are the tying steps I use:

Prepare the hook shank in the usual way.
Used here: Size 10 TMC 5263 
Beadhead dimension is 5/32 inch

Tie in one partridge feather.

Twist the feather to make a rope.
Wrap the rope about 2/3 up the shank to create an abdomen.
Tie down and snip off excess

You may wish to trim off some of the barbs.
However, it may fish even better if left long.

Create a dubbing loop

Insert second feather into dubbing loop.
Trim off the stem and right side of the feather with scissors.
Notice that the feather is positioned so the "fluffy" fibers
will be applied to the shank last, and will appear behind the bead.

This is what the trimmed off piece looks like.
Spin the dubbing loop. A few more spins and the fibers
positioned at the top will split away from each other.

After the dubbing loop has been wrapped around the shank
you'll have this nice mix of soft hackles and fluff.
Also, this will be a very durable fly.