Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Soft Hackle Thoughts

This is a bleached Starling skin
Over the last several weeks I have recieved numerous emails from several readers asking about various hackles used in soft hackle fly construction. It seems that color and ease of wrapping the hackle was most talked about, but price and availability were also talked about. So I have put together some of my thoughts on this subject and would like to pass it along. Now this information is my experience and I don't claim to be an expert on the subject of soft hackles, but I do have extensive knowledge fishing soft hackles and I have a fairly good handle as to what makes them work.

A bleached Starling feather pulled from the skin above. Starling is a beautiful material. It's color and moving hackle make it an ideal fly. The issue with Starling is it can be brittle and break in the wrapping of the hackle. Also it's feathers tend to be small so most of the flies tied from it will be 14 to 18. For some reason I have found Starling most effective in late February and through March.

The fly was tied with the feather above. It is tied on a 14 hook.

A golden Badger hen skin. This skin is about as cheap as you can get, this one cost me 5.00. It has a wide range of colors, shapes and sizes. It is easy to tie with  and is quite versatile in what it can represent.

A feather from the skin above. Look at and you can see the various other hackles it can substitute for, like Partridge.

Here is a fly tied with that feather.

Another hen skin, this one also cheap with outstanding properties.

Here is a feather from that skin. Look at it and imagine the patterns you could tie with it. Waterhen Bloa? if yo do please use the term variant so as to not get into trouble with the Accuracy police.

A fly tied with the feather above.

This is a bleached Partridge skin. These not much left on it but I do have a small box of selected feathers.

Here are a couple of types of feathers from that skin.

Here is a fly tied with the feather on the left. This fly is producing now.

Here are two hen pheasant feathers. Looking at them you can see they will in a pinch work just like the bleached Partridge, and golden Badger hackles.

Here are two flies tied with the hen pheasant feathers. The bottom fly is size 14 and the top fly a 12. All of the flies are tied with YLI silk thread for the body, and all have hares mask dubbing for the thorax.


Sunday, September 26, 2021

1 For 5.....

Rain and so much of it has created a special time to be a small stream angler. With exception of some cloudy water in the pools the stream was in great condition. It had been about four months since I last visited this stream and was somewhat surprised that the heavy rains of August had not changed it much. Those prime runs and pools were pretty much the same. The main thing was the erosion of the banks. The heavy rain had caused some impressive ruts a few of them had filled with dead leaves and presented a problem walking.

The run in the first photo was a bit frustrating in the fact that I had three hookups and lost every one of them. I assumed they were browns but this stream also holds brookies.


This run was also an issue. I had several trout come up for the fly only to miss it. And to add insult to my capabilities I also hooked up with one and lost it. Not to give up I continued to cast the fly in hopes that my luck would change. Well it did.

I finally brought one to hand. My fishing day was at end and part two was going to take place.

The woods in the area have quite a few hickory trees, and that means hickory nuts. I think we were about a week late for the bounty was collected by the squirrel population. We managed a few and they are worth the effort.

What a place to take a break, have a cup of coffee, maybe a snack and just sit and think how wonderful life really is.


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The last day of summer in "Brook Trout Forest"...

Today is the official first day of fall, actually for me it began on the first day of September. Whatever, yesterday was the last day of summer which felt like the first day of fall. The air was crisp both Jeanette and myself were comforted by thick flannel shirts. The sun did it's best and cut the chill in an hour or so and things started to pick up. I have often said that from my experience brook trout like to sleep late and the cooler it gets that gets reinforced. I expect it was about 10 am when the first brookie hit, it was not a shattering strike but more like a bump. The small streamer did not seem to be getting it done so I reached into the box and pulled out a fly that I became familiar with on the blog "Teton Tenkara"...Tom Davis suggested it was a good choice for fall trout, but I have had success with it all year.


The fly is the Takayama Sakasa's basically a thread body, which has a red thread head. There is a collar of peacock and the hackle is hen pheasant. Although a tenkara fly I find it fishes very well with conventional fly rods.

These Asters are still in bloom and add brightness to the wild countryside.

This impressive guy was the best of the day. I cast the fly into a smooth pool. I saw the fly sink. As I retrieved it I twitched it in an upward motion. I saw the fly's wing open and close as it moved through the water. Suddenly the wild one busted up off the bottom and nailed the fly. Man was he beautiful. He is what I like to refer to as a "black mouth brookie" The photo does not depict just how gorgeous he was. There is a slight kype that I'm sure will be enhanced as the fall progresses.

A fitting treat for a fine day in "brook trout forest".....


Sunday, September 19, 2021

I Could Fish With These Guys..........

I have written about this fly several times as well as the book from the pattern is taken from. The fly is Salars Nemesis, and the book is titled Six Months In Scotland. Most fly fishers and fly tyers are familiar with Sylvester Nemes. He is Americas soft hackle guru. He has written several books on soft hackle flies and are considered standards in the fly tying world. Six Months In Scotland is a bit different in that it gives the reader a good look into Atlantic salmon fishing in Scotland. His perspective is at times humorous and detailed.

The salmon fly Salars Nemesis is unique in that it is a soft hackle fly designed to catch Atlantic salmon. I don't know of any other salmon fly that is a soft hackle fly. When I was first shown this fly by the late Bill Shuck I became totally obsessed with it. It's a simple fly compared to most salmon flies and the materials are common and not expensive with exception of the jungle cock. Over the years I have tied many many Salars Nemesis flies and have fished them heavily. They have produced countless trout and bass and sunfish.


The book is a bit hard to find. I managed to locate mine at a fly fishing show. It's a good read.

I found this passage interesting and when I read it I said to myself "I could fish with these guys"...they have it down.

Salars Nemesis.....Nemes got it right again.


Thursday, September 16, 2021

The "Berkshires"

There is a mountain group in New England that few know about outside of the folks who live in New England. The Berkshires are a beautiful and quite old group of mountains, estimated to be a half a billion years old. They are part of the Appalachian mountain range. The Berkshires start on the Massachusetts Vermont line and extend down into Litchfield Connecticut. My first recollections of the Berkshires were when I was just a kid and the family spent time every year visiting the Great Barrington Fair. Also those annual trips to the Mohawk Trail each October to view the fall foliage. Many years later I discovered the wonderful small streams that flow through these mountains. Most of them containing wild brook trout. These streams many of which have no names that I know of have given me some outstanding days of fishing. The fishing is good through most of the year with exception of winter. I have always liked fall fishing best.


A typical Berkshire stream. Large boulders, fallen trees black bears and the best side to fish is always on the side your not.

Brookies are about this size. I have never caught a brookie over 10 inches in one of the Berkshire streams, not that they don't exist it's just that I've never encountered  one.

 Some years ago I created the Crowningshield Dry Fly. The fly was named for a beautiful wild stream in the Massachusetts Berkshires. The fly is quite effective and has some following in other northeast states. If you  search back posts on SSR's on Crowningshield Dry fly you'll find some more interesting info.


Monday, September 13, 2021

Cool Mornings And A Line Runner....

Cool nights and cool mornings make for flannel shirts and a coffee to go. Such was the day I'm going to tell you of. The crispness in the air is welcomed for it also gives brilliance to the wild flowers of the season. They sparkle in the sunlight as the dew runs off of them. Their colors preview what nature is planning in the next month. The crispness of the morning did not keep the mosquitos at bay, and it wasn't until a nice breeze picked up that put the little pests down.


The stream was sparkling, a mini light show in the sunlight. Most would pass up a run like this but not me. I had a streamer tied on and worked it through the run. No takes. I looked into the box and selected a fly that is known to produce very well this time of year...I'll let you figure out what that fly that was.

On the third cast a fish came up and took the fly. Here he is at hand.

Look at those colors.

This was a pretty swift  piece of water. But there was a soft seam there and quite possibly a fish holding. It was a cast that was not going to be pretty, you know the classic one where the fly floats gently along and you see the trout rise and take. No this was a throw it out and see what happens cast.

What happened was this. This wild one actually ran line off of the reel before I was able to gain the upper hand...strong brookie.

Have you figured out what fly I used?


Friday, September 10, 2021

"That Stream"

 We all have those places we fish that hold special memories. Those memories may be of the day and how beautiful it was or perhaps the memory might be of the fly we used. The memory could center on how productive the day was and maybe it was of the trout you caught.

This is a memory of a day and a stream that may be in the top ten of my days afield. I'm familiar with this stream having fished many times over the years. It tumbles down a hill through a deep forest of mixed trees. The maples and oaks and the pine and hemlock with a bunch of white birch thrown in. It's a beautiful stream any time of year but especially in the fall. There is a brief walk along a trail before it vanishes, then it's a bunch of boulders and roots with some briers to make it a challenge.


I fished that day for a long way upstream. The results were not glorious and be it a dry or wet neither got much attention from the wild brookies.

My goodness what a beautiful pool, so peaceful. I think those were my words to myself when I saw the pool that day. I had a bomber on and it was the first fly I tossed into the pool. It was several more casts before a fish rose to the bomber and missed. I continued fishing the bomber and got another response with a hookup that did not last. The bomber ran out of gas and I knew there were a few more brookies within the pool. I tied on a soft hackle, almost like a bomber in color but with a dark soft feather.. I cast close to the white water at the where it enters the pool. In a second I felt the take but as I pulled up the rod I felt slack. Picking up the line figuring to make another cast I could feel the fish on. Now either he was on all the while and I did not know it or it was another brookie that took the fly.

Either way I was soon holding a spectacular wild jewel, from "that stream".....


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

"Ida" the weekend after..........

Last week on Tuesday and Wednesday we were hit with the remnants of hurricane Ida. The rain was heavy and amounts of 8-10 inches were widespread. On my deck my rain gauge measured 9 inches. So with that amount of water being pumped into the streams you can imagine the effect it had. I did not even attempt to fish until Saturday. I felt that two plus days would be enough time for the streams to come back to a fishable level. I fished both days of the weekend and I'll give you Sunday's report first.

The sky was overcast and a chance of showers were in the forecast. Walking to the stream was a damp one with a combination of dew and rain clinging to the vegetation. Upon reaching the stream I could see how the heavy rains changed things. In a way those changes actually make for a new "old" stream. Logs were moved, larges stones were not where they were before, areas of the bottom were scoured out and new channels formed. Totally remodeled.



A pretty yellow wild flower with rain drops on it's petals. Nature does some beautiful art work.

Because of the higher flows along with some still off colored water I chose to fish a streamer. Color and flash would give me an advantage over a dry or soft hackle. It proved to be a good choice.

This photo says so much about the experience of the day.

This wild jewel took the streamer about six inches from the bank. The current was swift and the fly sort of turned on it's side. The brookie hit it on the surface.

 In the next post I'll tell you of the Saturday after Ida.


Saturday, September 4, 2021

Pan Fish, Pickerel and Pork Chops

I know most of my posts are about brook trout and small streams but there is another side to my fishing. I will seek and I must say be surprised by some of these fish as to where I catch them. As to favorites I will say brookies are number one but a close second is the sunfish. The pumpkinseed  you see in the first photo can rival the brookie both in color and fighting ability. These fish will bend your rods. Most times I will choose a pond or lake to fish for sunfish but I have taken them in small streams right along with brookies.


While you can take brookies on an assortment of flies, dries, nymphs, and even streamers I think the best offerings are soft hackle flies. Drifted, twitched on just allowed to sink to the bottom and then moved ever so slightly will bring a a severe strike.

The "redfin pickerel"...I love these guys. Most times when I fish slower pools with a bit of underwater vegetation  I'll catch a redfin. The one in the photo is about as large as I've ever taken. I find these in brook trout streams. They are lightning fast and strike the fly hard.

The Red and White bucktail is a god fly for the redfin. The same colors as the Dardevle spoon, which I consider the best pickerel lure ever.

Pan fried rib pork chop with green peppers and onions and a few tomatoes.