Gary LaFontaine was a legendary scholar of fly fishing. He was a well known & respected developer of fishing flies, author, & researcher of trout behavior. Indeed, many of his discoveries & observations have influenced the techniques we use to fool trout into eating our flies.
In one of his most important books, "Caddisflies", he discusses the different depths where trout primarily feed. What he writes makes us rethink some of the things we thought we knew. He says:
"Based on underwater observations the feeding percentages for each of the four zones are roughly:
Surface (top of the film) = 10%
Subsurface (bottom of the film) = 10%
Drift level = 60%
Bottom = 15%
Stray feeding at nonconcentration levels = 5%
The statement, "trout feed either at the top or bottom," by ignoring the two layers in between, fails to explain seventy percent of trout activity."
LaFontaine's book is filled with wisdom such as this. I would highly encourage all trout anglers to read it. (HERE, is a great place to buy it.)
If you're not familiar with LaFontaine or his work, I think you might enjoy learning more about this man who led a fascinating life. To learn more about him, click HERE. "Caddisflies" by Gary LaFontaine is a book that belongs in every angler's library.
I know that many fly anglers enjoy smoking a good pipe from time to time. Pipe smoking & fly fishing have gone together since who knows when. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure to make the acquaintance of Mr. Andrew Marks, Pipemaker. He's a pipe maker of handmade briar smoking pipes from Vermont. I'm always amazed at meeting such talented folks like Andrew. His work is fantastic.
Having been making pipes since 1969, Andrew Marks is one of the premier pipemakers in the country. In 2005 he was elected into the Pipe Smoker's Hall of Fame, a group which places him in the company of folks like Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Ernest Hemingway, Bing Crosby, Babe Ruth, Norman Rockwell, & others. He is truly a highly respected artist in the world of smoking pipes.
There are many parallels to what Andrew & I do. For example, you can order a pipe from him from his many different styles & models of pipes, or you can have him make a custom pipe just for you. His talents, experience, & abilities allow him to create a pipe that you envision. All his pipes are made from the finest materials that he has selected & all hand made by him in his shop.
Here's what "Pipes & Tobacco Magazine" had to say about him:
"Marks' Pipes smoke like mellow, broken-in briar friends from the initial smoke. It's truly an amazing experience. Be warned. After an encounter with an Andrew Marks Pipe, the discerning smoker will find it difficult to resist seeking out addition Andrew Marks Pipes. They are that good."
Pipes & Tobaccos Magazine
'For the Love of Briar'
by Bruce Harris.
So, if you're one of those anglers that enjoys a good pipe along the stream or after a day on the water, then please check out the work of Andrew Marks, Pipemaker.
Last time we discussed some of the basic information about streamer flies. This time we'll explore some of the basic techniques for using them to catch fish. To read part one of this article, click HERE. Now, part two.....
One of the great aspects of streamers is that they can catch fish in all water conditions and can be used just about anywhere. As a general rule Muddler minnows, woolly buggers, and woolly worms can be used in just about any type of water, any season of the year, or any time of day. Bucktails can also be used in all conditions but seem to do their best work in crystal clear water or when water levels are down – especially when you want to imitate a specific forage fish like, say, minnows or dace.
Using streamers on the water can bring success by using simple techniques. More advanced skills and techniques can be used and any experienced streamer angler will tell you that, obviously, the easier techniques should be mastered first.
In still water lakes and ponds fish a streamer like you would a lure. Cast to likely spots the fish will be such as under water structures, inlets and outlets, stump or brush depending on where the fish will be for the time of year, or day, that you are fishing. Give the fly a few seconds to sink, then retrieve, or strip, the line back to you keeping the rod tip pointed horizontally. By keeping the rod tip low you reduce drag on the line as it moves through the rod guides and when you get a quick strike you need only hold the line and lift the rod tip to set the hook. Here is where you need to experiment with both how deep you allow the fly to sink, along with how fast you strip line. Try different depths and retrieve speeds, stripping maybe a foot of line quickly or slowly, or maybe only short and jerky retrieves. Water conditions as well as time of year will dictate what you need to do. Keep trying different retrieves until you find what will work for the day. It also helps to know the seasonal movements of the fish for the water you’ll be fishing and what forage fish are available. The PA Fish and Boat Commission has a book titled Pennsylvania Fishes that can not only help you identify forage fish, but will also give you a wealth of information on the habitat, biology, and behaviors of the game fish you are after.
On streams and rivers you can cast directly across stream or slightly up stream and let the streamer drift through places you suspect fish to be much the same way you would fish a wet fly or a worm. At the end of the drift keep the rod tip low and strip line back to you to prepare for the next cast. It is during this retrieve that you will sometimes get a massive strike, so don’t let your attention wonder. A slight variation to this technique would be to strip line back towards you as your fly drifts through the best looking spots. In this way think about imitating a wounded or crippled fish that is trying to swim across stream. This technique can be deadly and strikes will be fast and furious. Again experiment with retrieve speed and depth. Another approach, although more advanced, would be to cast directly upstream and strip line back to you at the same rate as the water current speed. In this way your streamer looks like food drifting with the current and might appear more natural.
Streamers are a great way to locate fish in the Stream. Some experienced fly anglers will actually go back to spots on the water where they might have missed strikes with streamers earlier in the day and try again for those fish during the evening rise with wet or dry flies. Again, experiment. The key to success with streamers is trying different things until you find what the fish want.
In high and/or muddy water it is best to use the darkest streamer you have – black being the best because this puts a better silhouette in the water for the fish to see. Streamers can be modified in many ways to meet water conditions from bead heads, lead weight, to dumbbell eyes, and tied with flashy material incorporated into the fly for better visibility.
The Commonwealth offers us a variety of water types and fish to pursue throughout the entire year and fly fishing with streamers is a great way to go. Fly fishing doesn’t have to be small flies on trout streams only. For seasoned veteran fly anglers, streamers don’t have to be a last resort or something to use only in high water. They can be a great go-to fly that will help you catch more fish between hatches. If you’ve been thinking about trying your hand at fly fishing or want to begin a younger angler in the sport, streamers are a fantastic, fish-catching way to get started.
The following is a short, basic article about streamer flies. This will be in two parts. Part one......
To many anglers the idea of fly fishing brings to mind the picturesque vision of a neatly-tied traditional dry fly gently floating over smooth, glassy water. Of course experienced anglers realize there is more than just the dry fly available in the arsenal of the fly angler – namely the wet fly, nymph, emerger, and streamer. Unfortunately, it is the streamer fly that many anglers overlook, sometimes using it only as a last resort on a fishless day.
I say this is unfortunate because of the vast ability streamers have to catch fish in all seasons, water conditions, and any time of day or night. And it’s not just trout that will take a streamer. Pennsylvania has numerous varieties of fish for the fly angler to pursue and almost every kind of fish can be caught on these flies from Bluegill, Bass, Crappie, Walleye, Perch, Pike, etc.
Streamers are also a great way to introduce a new fly angler or youth to the sport of fly fishing for a number of reasons. When taking a new angler fishing, especially kids, it is important that they catch some fish and it is hard to find a fly that can catch more fish in a fertile bluegill pond than the right streamer. Also, since streamers tend to be larger than other flies, you don’t have to worry about finer diameter tippets and dead accurate casts at first as you would with dry flies, plus the hook is larger wich increases the chances of landing fish. Streamers can also be a great way to introduce an angler to fly tying since some of the most successful flies are also the easiest of all to tie, most notably the woolly worm and woolly bugger.
For clarity let’s divide streamer flies into two categories: soft swimmers and bucktails. Soft swimmers include woolly buggers, woolly worms, zonkers, matukas, etc. These flies are tied with soft materials like marabou and long hackle feathers that pulsate in the water giving the fly life-like movement. This is where their success comes from. They look so alive in the water that fish will strike them, mistaking them for forage food or simply out of curiosity. Of the soft swimmers perhaps the most popular, and most successful, are the woolly bugger and woolly worm and they should be in every anglers fly box. Soft swimmers are general imitations that look like forage fish, crayfish, hellgrammites, etc while at the same time looking quite like nothing in particular.
Bucktails are streamers tied with stiffer materials like bucktail, deer hair, turkey feathers, etc. These flies tend to imitate specific forage food fish like minnows, dace, and sculpins. The streamers of this category include the Mickey Finn, Clauser Minnow, Black Nose Dace, Muddler Minnow, etc. The Muddler is probably the most popular of these flies. Its success comes from the fact that it looks not only like a sculpin but also like a lot of other small fish at the bottom of the food chain. It has a head of clipped deer hair that makes an attention getting noise as it cuts through the water, attracting fish. This is a very effective fly at night when some fish rely more on hearing than sight to ambush forage fish.
Next time we'll discuss some of the basic techniques for using streamers....
Every now & then, something for the fly fishing world makes a big splash. Well, back in 2005 a documentary film called "Trout Grass" was released. I thought I might mention it here for those who haven't seen it yet, or are just getting into fly fishing.
Written & narrated by writer David James Duncan, Trout Grass tells the story of the bamboo that is used in making fly rods. This documentary has won many awards that are, in my opinion, deservedly so.
The story begins in China where the bamboo grows & we get to meet & see the folks who grow it. We see how it's harvested, cleaned, sorted, & brought to market. This, for me, was especially interesting. As a rod maker I never get to see who handles the bamboo before I get it, or what the area it comes from looks like.
Next, we follow the bamboo to Montana & watch as rod maker Glenn Bracket & his cohort "boo boys" turn the raw material into a beautiful, working fly rod. We get to look over Glenn's shoulder as he goes about his daily job of turning out some of the most sought after fly rods. Plus, we get to hear some of his thoughts about bamboo & what he does - very insightful thoughts from a man who's spent his life working with bamboo.
The story then moves on with David James Duncan & the legendary Thomas McGuane on a fishing trip to what could be the most beautiful place on the planet. Here we get to see bamboo rods in action catching some glorious trout.
"Trout Grass" is definitely worth the price of admission. If you haven't seen it yet, you owe it to yourself to see this beautiful movie. If it's been a while since last you saw it, watch it again. "Trout Grass" is a film you'll want to watch again & again.
For a good place to buy this DVD, click HERE.
Lang's Auction, Inc is having their fall auction of antique & classic fishing tackle & accessories on Saturday & Sunday October 22 & 23, 2011. The start time for each day is 10:00 am EST.
For those of you not familiar with Lang's, they are the premier tackle & fishing collectible auctioneers in the country. They also have a consignment shop on the internet as well. They are the experts of classic tackle. Their catalogs are a reference to angling collectors everywhere.
This fall's auction looks to have quite a selection. On Saturday, they'll be auctioning reels by J.F. &B.F. Meek, Peerless, Bogdan, Fin-Nor, Heddon, etc. Also on Saturday rods by Dickerson, Gillum, Payne, F.E. Thomas, Kosmic, Edwards, Chubb, & others will also be on the auction block along with fish decoys, books, creels, & other angling collectibles. On Sunday they will auction a large collection of many desirable, collectible lures.
There's always something for everyone at a Lang's auction. Bidding is easy & can be done by mail or over the phone & online in real time with the auction. If you are a collector, or are looking to start a collection, Lang's is the place to go. Good luck & happy bidding!!
The Pliant Rod
News from the shop of Chris Lantzy, Custom Rod Maker along with industry news, profiles of interesting characters, reviews, history, & whatever else strikes our fancy. Your comments & feedback are welcome. Please email me your thoughts.
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