Sunday, March 27, 2016

Spring 2016 Edition of Tenkara Angler

The Spring 2016 edition of Tenkara Angler has hit the virtual newsstands.   This edition contains one hundred and twelve pages of tenkara goodness.  The magazine covers a broad range of topics with articles on fishing, fly tying, casting techniques, destinations, as well as other subjects such as art, interviews and camping.   As tenkara has taken hold here in the United States, I have seen the use of the technique expanded far beyond the coldwater mountain streams where it originated.   Over the years, it has become one of my favorite ways to pursue panfish.  In fact, you can find an article authored by yours truly in this edition.  The article, entitled Springtime Crappies, illustrates just how effective tenkara techniques and equipment can be on warm water fish.  You can check out the magazine for free by clicking here.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Shad - How to Find Them

Delaware River
In continuing the posts on the upcoming shad season, I thought I would share what I know about locating the fish.  Shad are different from most warm water fish I target since they are anadromous. This means they spend the majority of their lives in salt water, returning to fresh water to spawn.  They are only available to anglers for a short window of time and during this period, they are always on the move.  What was a productive spot one day may be a waste of time to fish the next.

First a little about the fish themselves.  When I refer to shad, I am, in fact, referring to American Shad, not to be confused with the slightly smaller Hickory Shad.   Both species may be present at the same time in some watersheds.  Shad are members of the herring family.  These fish spend the vast majority of their lives in salt water, returning to freshwater to spawn, much like salmon.   It is interesting to note that many shad survive spawning and return to the ocean in the northern part of their range.  When I refer to freshwater, I mean rivers.  Although the historical range of the American Shad has been reduced due to dams and pollution, shad can be found in most major river drainages along the eastern seaboard including Florida and Nova Scotia.    Originally native to only the east coast, shad were transported to our western shores in the 1800's where they took to the Pacific Ocean like a fish to water.  West coast runs of shad in some rivers may, in fact, be larger than runs in their native rivers back east.

A female shad is typically larger than males.  Their average weight is 3-6 pounds, but they can run quite a bit larger.  The current IGFA all tackle record is a hefty 11lbs 4oz.  Male shad typically range in the 2-4 pound range.  Shad are feed mostly on plankton like other herring, but they have been known to consume shrimp, small fish and fish eggs.  It is puzzling why shad readily take flies and other lures, being the plankton feeders that they are.  It could be out of aggression or perhaps simple curiosity.  Fortunately, we don’t need to worry about why they hit flies, just be confident that they do.

When shad enter freshwater, they are doing it for one reason, and that is to spawn.  Depending on where you are located this can occur anytime from late winter to early summer.  In my area, the major fishery is the Delaware River.  In most years the fish are in the rivers in catchable numbers by late March.  Once in the rivers, the fish are constantly on the move towards their spawning grounds which could be hundreds of miles upstream and into tributaries along the way.

Shad tend to orient themselves to the river bottom, sticking close to it as they move or rest in the river.  They often tend to stick to river channels, but occasionally can be found in shallow water.  Shad also tend to congregate behind obstructions in the river, using the break in the current to rest before pushing up the river.  Shad gather in schools in the marine environment, so if you locate one fish, you are likely to connect with more.  In the rivers, shad behave differently than they do in salt water in regards to forming schools.  In freshwater, a school of shad is more likely to be a long narrow line of fish opposed to a dense school.  They move upstream in conga line fashion instead of a large pod of fish.

If your are trying to locate shad, you need to keep these facts in mind.  You are going to need to present your fly in a manner that it gets down in the water column, real low, just over the bottom low.  You will probably have more success if you can locate structure in the river that will provide a break in the current if you are looking for a concentration of fish.  Keep in mind that these fish are on the move constantly so you may find them anywhere.  Finally, you want to be able to reach the main channel with your cast as the fish tend to seek out the deeper water of the main channel more often.  Find a location that gives you one or more of these features and you're likely to catch shad if they are there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Shad are Nigh

It won't be long now.

I am starting to hear reports of shad caught in the Delaware River.  Their numbers over the last few weeks have been on the flat side indicating that the run has not begun in earnest, but it should not be long now.  I friend of mine was on the river last week and reported the water was lower than it should be at this time of year.  Low water will have an effect on the run.  A flush of water should encourage the fish to begin their upstream push.  With some wet weather in the forecast perhaps we will see some better numbers caught.  I know most anglers pursue shad with a spinning rod, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that!  If you have never fly fished for shad, I highly recommend it.  The fish eagerly take flies and fight like hell on a six weight rod.  I am a relative novice when it comes to fly fishing for shad having fished for them for only a few years.  In any case, I am happy to share what I know.

The most challenging part for me has been finding sections of the river that are suitable for fly fishing.  With fly fishing, an open bank for unobstructed backcasts is necessary, unless you are going to employ spey gear.   Being able to reach the main channel give you access to more fish as they tend to concentrate there.  With the limited casting range of a fly rod (compared to a spinning rod) the channel needs to swing close to the shoreline your fishing.   On the Delaware River, spots that meet these criteria are few and far between, especially if you don’t want to interfere with the efforts of other anglers using spinning tackle.  That being the case, I need to keep specific locations to fish close to the vest.   I’m going to leave finding a place to fish up to you, but that’s half the fun.

As far as rods go, I have been using a nine foot six weight for most of my shad fishing.  Since you are throwing shooting heads with fast sinking or intermediate lines, a fast rod with a bit of backbone helps to cast this setup.  When the water is high, I will often switch to a seven weight nine feet or longer.  Late in the season, I may drop down to a five weight and may even use floating lines.  When fishing with shooting heads, a stripping basket of some type is mandatory equipment.

Colorful, flashy and easy to tie!

The flies are very simple to tie with bright and flashy being the norm.  It takes a bit of experimenting to dial in on a retrieve that the fish find appealing.  In most cases a fast, steady retrieve is what the fish prefer.  A two handed retrieve with the fly rod tucked up under your arm usually does the trick.  If you are a saltwater angler, you know the drill.

I hope to report more in the weeks to come and plan on sharing more information on gear, terminal tackle and fly selection so stay tuned…

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

SmithFly's New Waterproof Pack on Kickstarter

The folks at SmithFly have just launched a new Kickstarter campaign for a waterproof backpack.   I love waterproof packs and bags and have been using a few different makes and models over the last few years.  I need another bag like a hole in the head, but a molle compatible dry pack, that will except a holster?  Those familiar with my pre-retirement life know this one will be hard to resist!

At the time of this writing, there was a great early bird deal on these bags.  Fifty percent off retail price!  There are only a hundred available at that price, so get them while the getting is good.  You can find the project here.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Panfish On The Fly

I recently launched a new site that will focus on warm-water fly fishing. The site is still under construction, but most areas are up and running. There is new content added several times a week. Stop by and check it out. You can find it at
There is also a facebook page by the same name

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Crappie Kebari

Tenkara has become my favorite way to fish for Crappie and other panfish.   I have converted one of my favorite, brightly colored soft hackles into a reversed hackle, kebari style fly.  I have had quite a bit of success with this pattern over the last few seasons.  Sometimes it performs a little better, other times the fish prefer the pattern tied as a traditional soft hackle.  On a tenkara rod this one feels right.

Pattern Recipe:

Hook:  Standard wet fly ( the one pictured is an old, no longer made Mustad with a wicked barb)

Thread:  6/0 Uni your choice of color

Body:  Chartreuse Ice Dub

Thorax:  Pink Ice Dub

Hackle:  Hen pheasant tied reversed

Monday, February 22, 2016

Lafontaine's Single Marabou Egg

Single Marabou Egg Burnt Orange and Hot Pink

Truth be told I have never been a big fan of egg patterns. Does that mean I don't use them?  Hell no!  There is no denying their fish catching abilities. Most patterns are incredibly easy to tie, and are absolutely deadly on the end of the line. Maybe that's part of the problem, they can be too effective at times.  It's a stretch to call some modern variants of the egg patterns actual flies.  I recently caught a large rainbow with not one but two "egg flies" broken off in his jaw. These "flies" consisted of a gummy translucent egg glued to a hook.  Realistic? Yes.  Effective? Obviously.  Flies?  I'm not quite sure.  The person fishing obviously felt they were, as this fish was caught in fly fishing only water.

There is one egg pattern that I regularly fish without guilt. Gary Lafontaine's Single Marabou Egg.  It's guilt free for me because it feels more like a fly to me than your traditional glo bug style fly.  It involves multiple materials none of which have any egg like qualities on their own. But, when tied in combination they create an illusion of an egg at least to the fish. I have fished this pattern side by side with traditional glo bug style patterns and have found it produces as well, if not better, in most conditions.  One reason is the way the the fly performs underwater. Real fish eggs are naturally dense by design, nature built them that way. Once released from the fish they quickly settle to the bottom where they settle into the substrate and eventually hatch. The materials used in the Marabou Single Egg absorb water and in conjunction with the weighted hook this fly rapidly descends and rolls along the bottom realistically. Yarn style patterns are often made of hydrophobic materials which hinder the fly's ability to perform as well, at least when they are first tied on the leader.

According to its creator the fly is tied with three materials.  The hook is always a size 16. The color of the marabou "wing" changes to meet the needs of the angler to imitate the primary color of the egg. The pink sparkle yarn body and red hackle are constants.  I have strayed from this in my versions of this pattern. I have been known to change hook size, body and hackle colors even omitting the hackle at times. My most effective version is probably a chartreuse marabou wing tied over a white sparkle yarn body with or without the red hackle.

The Single Marabou Egg
Hook: Size 16
Body:  Pink Sparkle Yarn (if tying on a size 16 unravel the yarn and use one strand)
Wing:  Several strands of marabou (color matching the primary color of the egg you wish to imitate)
Hackle: Red hackle (one turn, slightly oversized)

Monday, February 15, 2016

There is a New REGAL VISE in the House!

REGAL Revolution with stainless steel jaws
I recently picked up a new vise from REGAL VISE.  To date, I have done most of my fly tying on probably one of the most sought after vises  ever made - a LAW vise.  The value of the LAW vise has sky rocketed since they stopped being manufactured.  Not that they were ever really "manufactured"  in the sense of the word.  Each vise was hand made by a gentleman named Lawrence A. Waldren,  a British precision machinist  who, for a while, made a limited number of high quality tools for cane rod building and fly-tying.  He also made fly reels, which I understand are quite impressive. Every vise, as well as his other products, were individually made to order by Lawrence, and each one was characterized by a very high quality level in design, construction and materials.  It is without question the finest vise ever made.  

If the LAW vise is so great why stop using it?  I'll tell you...I do a lot of tying.  I am not a commercial tier but I tie a lot.  There are few flies in my boxes that have not been made by my own hands.  For over 15 years the LAW vise has been the only vice I tied on.  And I own quite a few high quality vises, Renzetti, Dyna-King, as well as two other REGAL vises.  They have been collecting dust on a shelf waiting for my two sons to show an real interest in fly tying (I'm happy to say that the Dyna-King Barracuda has found its way up to my 13 year old's room!).  As I mentioned earlier, the LAW vise is highly sought after and its no longer made.  That means its value keeps increasing.  In 2014 I was offered $3,800.00 for the vise at a show in New Jersey.  If the guy had cash instead of a personal check I probably would have sold it right then and there. Recently the price for these vises is nearing the $5,000 which is insane.  I don't know if the trend will continue but this may be something to put away or at least not wear out (though I doubt I could).

The big question was, what to replace the LAW vise with?  For me the answer was easy.  I own a number of high end vises that I could have brought out of retirement, but I had been longing for a particular vise for some time now.  The REGAL Revolution particularly, the model with stainless steel jaws.  Having owned  and used REGAL vises previously, I was very familiar with their hook holding power and ease of operation.  Even since purchasing the LAW vise REGAL vises have long been my vise of choice for spinning deer hair and salt water patterns where extreme hook holding power is important.  I also turn to a REGAL vise when I get into a "production tying" mood and need to turn out flies quickly.  The hook holding mechanism of the REGAL vises make them the fastest when it comes to setting and removing hooks. 

I have been using the new Revolution model for a couple of days now and I love it!  The stainless jaws are a big improvement for me over the standard jaws.  I can confidently say that with this new vise on my tying desk the LAW vise can start enjoying an early retirement.  Obviously a tool like the LAW vise is meant to be used and it still will be, but the REGAL is the new work horse.  REGAL Engineering did a great job designing this vise and the custom anodizing really makes it an attractive tool.  I'm looking forward to a lot of time spent behind it! 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Ginger Quill by Mathew Grobert and Tightline Productions

Ginger Quill from Tightline Productions on Vimeo.

I have to share this fly tying video.  My friends Mathew Grobert and Tim Flagler of Tightline Productions just released this video for a Quill Gordon.  Excellent fly tying and video work gentlemen.  Nicely done!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Snow Day Fruit Salad

I woke up to a half foot of snow Friday morning, so the work I had planned to do outside was put on the back burner.  It was the perfect opportunity to catch up on some fly tying.  I  had committed to tying two dozen nymphs for a fly swap in my local TU chapter (Central Jersey Trout Unlimited) and this was as good a time as any to get it done.  I thought I would share with them a pattern that was a good producer for me this fall, the Fruit Salad.

Small dish of fruit salad.

I discovered the pattern on a fellow blogger's site back in October.  The fly, originally tied as a jig pattern, was designed for grayling and was featured on the blog North Country Angler . You can get the story on the fly's design and take a look at the original pattern here.  I tied and fished this on a size 16 jig hook and had a lot of success on late fall rainbows in my area.  I thought I would include it as my contribution to CJTU's fly swap.  Unfortunately,  I was a little short on jig hooks so I tried the pattern out on a standard nymph/wet hook (a Mustad 3906).  I'm happy with the way they came out.  I'll be looking forward to see if they performed as good as the jig version.

Fruit Salad on Mustad 3906

Fruit Salad tied as I fished it on a Umpqua C400BL jig hook
Pattern Recipe: (mine differs slightly from the original)

Hook:  Umpqua C400BL #16
Bead:  Faceted tungsten sized to hook
Thread:  Olive 70 denier UTC
Tail:  Two strands of glowbrite #1 (pink) over two strands of glowbrite #7 (orange)
Rib:  Fine black wire
Body:  Dark hares mask dubbing
Thorax:  Arizona synthetic dubbing natural peacock #59
Legs:  Dark dun CDC wound as a collar (I like keeping them on the long side)

This rainbow enjoyed a little fruit salad