Each year I look forward to my week at Camp Barry on the grounds of the Berlin Fish Hatchery and each year the week shoots by so fast. In a short period of time we teach the campers so much about fishing, both fly and bait, knots, fish identification, fish handling and much much more. Every camper learns to tie flies and then uses their fly to fish with, often catching their first fish while fly fishing. Its quite a neat thing to hear "today was a great day, I caught my first fish fly fishing on a fly I tied this morning". Our days are long and its not unusual to be tying flies at 5am because we ran out of ones that were working the previous day.
This year we were fishing one of the local ponds and we had a light cahill fly hatch followed about 60 minutes later by a dark dun fly hatch. We used that entire sequence to educated the campers that were fly fishing with us at the time. That night ended with all the instructors in head lamps while fishing on the pond.
Two days are spent fishing the Androscoggin River below the Pontook Dam catching this year dozens of rainbows and browns. For me the time on the Androscoggin allows me to relive many days of my youth fishing with my grandfather who owed one of the first camps on the base of Braggs Bay. I feel lucky to share what knowledge I have with the campers about fishing that river.
Camp wrapped up last Friday and we already have started planing for next year. Areas we can improve, experiences we can expand on as we once again prepare for 2019 Fish Week as a Let's Go Fishing Volunteer for NH Fish and Game.
The photo below is a classic, the camper missed a strike from a brown trout when he looked at the camera (you can see my reaction). It became a teachable moment and he did not miss the next strike.
One of my friends is getting married next week and he asked me if I would make some brooch pins for his wedding party. He had originally chosen the Grey Ghost streamer fly pattern but after deciding on gray suits changed his mind. We tested out the Carrie Streamer pattern the Victory but finally he settled on the Black Ghost Custom. This fly was Carrie Stevens rendering of the Herb Welch fly. It was fun to tie and had its challenges. First we did not get the hooks with the pins on until last week, so I was under the gun to get these done. Second, I have made only a few brooch pins and they were done with Peggy Brenner, they were hair wing flies. These have two posts on the far side of the hook. Most have one post or a pin. We needed the two posts because of the length of the hook shank to keep it from rotating on the jacket. With two post the rib spacing got challenging as the posts were hand done and not exactly in the same spot on each hook. The post closets to the eye crowded the far side wing, cheek and jungle cock which took some adjustment on each of the flies. As with many of these the first one was a breeze, it was trying to get the rest to match that was the challenge. They came out great, they were fun to do and I'm sure they will all look great wearing them on June 2, 2018.
I often get asked about fly tying shows. Usually the shows are part of a larger fly fishing show, a state program on outdoors or something related to the sport of fishing. The questions are always around the benefit of going. My answer is the benefits are endless. Typically these shows have great presentations on fly tying that you can learn a lot from. The best aspect of these shows can be the interaction you have with individual tyers. You can often observe them tying flies and ask questions getting valuable tips that you can use when you tie. Specific questions I often get are on things like....how do you set your wings on streamer flies?.....how do you measure hackles? .....what is the best vise? These questions go on and on. For the new or the seasoned tyer your questions can get answered and its the personal touch that really can benefit those attending the show. I think I've been to over 10 shows both small and large in the last 12 months. They all have been excellent. The interaction I get from the attendees often shapes my fly tying instruction as I make modifications to the classes I volunteer teach for NH Fish and Game. A perfect example was last week someone asked me about measuring hackle on a fly. Yesterday at the NH Fly Fishing Show I decided to teach the Deer Hair Alder fly I blogged about a few months ago. It requires a hackle and can be tricky to size because you are tying in over a slight ramp made from the comparadun hair wing. Before we tied the fly we attached our Whiting Farms hackle gages to out Regal Vise's and when it was hackle time we used them to size our hackles. The class was intermediate tyers and very few of them had used this tool to size their hackle. I was able to explain sizing hackle, downsizing hacks because of the ramp on the fly from the hair and some history on catskill dry fly hackle sizes. All this came for someone asking me a question at a show. Yes there are lots of benefits attending a show some instructional, some for the presenters themselves like me and some getting great deals shopping for materials and gear.
What seems like all too long ago I was working for a big hospital in Nashua, NH. My role was to manage a number of medical facilities around the the southern part of the state. Each week I could count on a trip through New Boston which resulted in a lunch time stop at the old Hunter's Fly Shop. The crew at the shop always said they new what day it was when I showed up.
On one visit I stood in front of a wall of fly capes trying to decide which one I could afford when no other than Dick Talleur was suddenly standing beside me. He asked me what I was looking at and going to tie. I explained I was trying to buy 2 half capes to tie some Adams patterns to use on the Androscoggin River and in the Errol area. He said come over here and sat down and showed me a pattern he called the Dorato Hare's Ear. He explained that it was named after a friend of his Bill Dorato and tied correctly imitated a caddis fly trying to exit the water. He shared with me it had many of the same materials as an Adams but with a different wing and body. Two things I remember from my lesson was the tail should be shorter than normal with a slight fanning and that you should clip the hackles on the bottom of the fly. The clipping he said should not be excessive with the key to leave a gap and a half in length on the underside of the fly. He explained it allowed the fly to sit lower in the water as if it was struggling to escape and fly away.
I learned a lot that day, got what materials I needed and thanked my friend Dick for the lesson. For me the sharing of information was very important. I remember that day quite clearly and the pattern always is in my fly box and one of my go to flies.
Dorato Hare's Ear
Hook: 12-16 Partridge Dry Fly Supreme
Thread: 6/0 Olive Danville
Tail: Mixed Grizzly and Brown (short and fanning)
Wings: Wood Duck Flank
Body: Medium Hare Ear Dubbing
Hackle: Dark Grizzly and Medium Brown
I decided to branch out and try tying some patterns I have not attempted yet just for practice. I focused on three yesterday from Carrie Stevens. The Will Ketch, General MacArthur and Charles E. Wheeler. Each one incorporates a different aspect of the feather wing fly tying process. From a three colored head to multiple shoulders to gain a coloring effect. More to come!
Join NH Fish and Game’s Let’s Go Fishing Program at the NH Fly Fishing Show on February 24, 2018 as we offer two free fly tying programs.
From 10-11:30 am fly tying instructor Scott Biron will offer free a beginner tying class. All materials, tools and equipment will be supplied. New tyers or beginners will learn to tie a soft hackle fly. Registration is required and spots are limited. Registration is online at:
https://nhfishandgame.com/EventWeb/Event/ReservedEvents use the code NHFF1
From 1-2:30 pm fly tying instructor Scott Biron will offer free a intermediate tying class. All materials, tools and equipment will be supplied. Intermediate tyers with 2 or more years of experience will learn how to tie an effective NH fly pattern you can use this spring. Registration is required and spots are limited. Registration is online at:
https://nhfishandgame.com/EventWeb/Event/ReservedEvents use the code NHFF2
For more information on the show go to http://www.merrimacktu.org/fly-fish-new-hampshire-show-2017/
I was visiting with a friend an few weeks back and he has a great deal of NH fishing experience. We were discussing Lake Sunapee, which is basically in my back yard. It's a lake I drive by a lot and always say to myself......I need to fish that lake at ice out this year. Determined to do it I began poking around at fly patterns that might work. My friend said he knew people who fish a Purple Smelt back in the day and the results were good. In my research I came upon Ora Smith's Purple Smelt Pattern in both a tandem and on a single streamer hook.
I never met Ora but I have researched him and spoked to loads of folks who knew him. My guess is he was a practice tyer and used materials that he could get locally. One thing that he used a lot of was teal flank feathers for cheeks on streamers. Last year I tied a load of his patterns and had great results with many that had teal cheeks.
We will give it a try on Lake Sunapee this spring and report back.
Ora Smith was one of the first NH fly tyers I studied under the NH Traditional Arts Grant in 2017. There has been a lot written about him and he had hundreds of patterns. I would consider him a Monadnock fly tyer being based in Keene, NH. Many of his patterns were specifically tied for waterbodies in the Monadnock region. Many of his patterns were named for the person he tied them for and sadly most have faded away. A percentage of his flies became and remain popular state wide. Years ago I was tying his Canopache pattern at the Fly Fishing Show and my friend Ron Sowa came by. He shared this story about the fly. There were some camps in Wolfeboro, NH called the Canopache Camps. Ora trolled the fly along the shoreline where the camps were and the results were very good.....and that is how fly got it's name. The camps are no longer there but Canopache Road marks their spot. I could not tie these flies fast enough at the show and get the eyes painted on them. Customers were scooping them up in handfuls.
As part of the grant I researched most of his fly patterns and tied many at area shows. As with many patterns they evolved as materials became too expensive or newer materials became available. I challenged myself to tie a large number of his lesser known patterns and also fish them. Interestingly, almost all of them caught fish.
The video that is below is from a tape that my friend Gary Cutter took in 1998. Ora discusses how he began fly tying, the price of materials, the Maynard Marvel fly and you see two customers at his house buying flies.
There is something about this fly pattern that makes it both fun to tie and very effective to fish. It's another pattern that was developed by Jim Warner to be fished in Lake Winnipesaukee......and yes there is a story behind it.
The fly was created at the request of George and Helen Babb. They were from Alton Bay and as best as I can figure out may have owned a shop that amoung other things sold flies. The story goes that they ask Jim to tie them a Grey Ghost but to modify it by adding three primary colors. The colors were, blue, red and yellow bucktail and as the fly was fished they would mix up a bit which made the pattern highly effective.
Years ago I saw a video of Jim tying a fly and he shared a story about some customer coming in his shop and looking at the board of Grey Ghosts for sale. He went on to say the guy chose the most perfect Grey Ghost, took it out of the package, placed it on the floor and ground the fly into the floor with his foot. Then he held the up the fly and proclaimed "now thats a Grey Ghost". They guy was no more than 20 yards off the dock trolling when he caught a salmon.
The underlying point to this story and the Babbs Ghost is that the more beat up, mixed up a fly looks often contributes to its effectiveness. I also feel the the combination of the three colors of bucktail blend to give off a real smelt like color.
Babbs Ghost Jim Warner Pattern
Hook: 10X Streamer hook in 2, 4 or 6
Tag: Silver mylar
Body: Black floss 4 strands
Rib: Silver mylar #14 12 wraps
Belly: Sparse white bucktail as long as the wing
Wing: First layer--sparse blue bucktail
Second layer--sparse red bucktail
Third layer--sparse yellow bucktail
Topped with 4 blue dun saddle hackles
Shoulder: Silver pheasant
Cheeks: Jungle cock
Tying notes: I've seen the bucktail tied over peacock herl. The fly does out really nice if you tie the black floss in at the head using two strands and then wrap back and then forward doubling it and giving you the four strands.
Happy New Year
Melvin Bay fly pattern was one of Jim Warner's creations. As with many flies there is a story behind them. I have a handful of his files, some are his creations others are patterns he tied for his shop that others created. I have a bunch of Carrie Stevens patterns that he tied and sold in large numbers. He had a pattern called the Wolfeboro Bay which was basically a Mickey Finn that was topped with a white marabou plume. The Melvin Bay was identical to the Wolfeboro Bay but he substituted a dark blue dun marabou plume in place of the white one. Story goes that he was trying to wean a few of the locals off the traditional Grey Ghost which is how the Melvin Bay came about. I've seen this fly tied many times and often the marabou is very light grey. My understanding is the color of the marabou needs to be dark blue dun. It is supported in the flies I have of Jim Warner......all the grey is dark blue dun. The challenge comes in finding the marabou in the dark blue dun. When I see it, I scoop it up because os is hard to come by. The body on this fly is very unique. It is wrapped with silver oval tinsel and ribbed with flat river tinsel. I often have this as a pattern to sell at shows I tie at. If a real die hard Winnipesaukee angler comes by my table and sees one of these flies it gets an immediate reaction. Usually the story starts with "thats a deadly pattern".
Hook Partridge Heritage 7 or 9x down eye streamer
Body Silver oval tinsel ribbed with flat silver tinsel
Throat Red hackle fibers
Wing First layer sparse yellow bucktail or capras
Second layer sparse red bucktail or capras
Third layer dark blue dun marabou plume
Fourth layer black silver pheasant crest or black ostrich herls
Head White eye with black pupil