Black River Journal
Winter 2008/2009 - by Jim Holland
Winter’s long hand stretches his cold shadow across our souls. The days are short; the light is pale and fleeting and it seems that our streamside companions have left for warmer climes chasing the sun. It is a time for stories…
A good friend and talented
angler, Lee Brown asked me back in June how I fished a certain pool. I
was surprised because Lee has fished around the world from across North
Many people consider fly
fishing to be a solitary sport. In fly tying, I have often found quite
the opposite to be true. Fly tyers aren’t merely weaving a fly; they
invariably explain not only why a fly works and its history but also
their own experiences and why they’ve chosen to tie a particular
pattern. It is not so much the pattern but the endorsement of the tyer
that gives us the confidence to try it for ourselves. This
is why our Sunday fly tying is so enjoyable. I never know what is going
to be next. Eric and George are once again hosting our Winter Fly Tying.
Last year Eric carefully prepared a curriculum, students were schooled
in the basic techniques, learning how to apply thread, become familiar
with the tools and materials tying flies that best demonstrated the
skills necessary to master the nymph, streamer or dry fly. Once
they’ve mastered the basics it was hard to predict where they would go
next whether it was learning some classic Hair-wing Atlantic Salmon
flies with the aforementioned Lee Brown or exploring the use of
synthetic materials with well known local master Andy Sutton of
As many of you will note, I
have been following the story of dam removals on the
Although it may seem that there is little activity on the stream, it is often quite possible to see signs of spring in January. The Early Black Stonefly, Cappnia vernalis will begin hatching sporadically by mid month often joined by the Early Brown Stonefly Strophopteryx fasciata. Look for daytime highs in the upper thirties to low forties and these insects will become active. Small black or brown stonefly patterns will effectively imitate the nymphs as they begin to crawl towards streamside rocks to hatch. I have often used a standard Copper John or Black Hare’s Ear or Pheasant Tail nymph size 16-18 in relatively shallow water to catch fish feeding on the first nymphs of the season. The adult stoneflies don’t all make it into the air without being washed into the current so it is possible to fish the dry. It is often a good idea to give some motion to these flies to make it appear that they are struggling in the surface film. The takes are not often subtle and a good way to shake off some of those winter blues. Another great winter pattern is the Starling Soft Hackle, a very simple but effective fly named for the use of starling wings for the soft hackle collar. Fish these in sizes 14-18 and swing them across and downstream for best results.
It is important to note that even in the absence of a dense hatch; there is always food in a trout stream. Midges are always present and are often preyed upon. Two important midge groups are the Chironomids and the Diptera. My best advice on midge fishing is to have an assortment of very small dries in a variety of colors. As for the subsurface imitation it can be a Disco Midge or any imitation tied with a little thread and flash; try a variety of colors, Olive, Red or Black in sizes 16-24 are probably the most popular. Add a small glass bead to simulate the air bubble many insects use to rise to the surface.
Scuds are an aquatic shrimp common to all our streams. They prefer logs and branches to hide in. My two favorite colors are Grey and Tan at this time. Of our three local species, Rainbows are most active in winter and they love scuds! Last year when the water wasn’t too high, my best tandem rig consisted of a Beadhead Flashback Hare’s Ear nymph size 14 and a size 16 Grey or Tan Scud as the trailing fly. I simply tie in about twenty inches of fine tippet off of the bend in the hook of the Hare’s Ear. If I know Stoneflies are active, I’ll replace the natural Hare’s Ear with a black version or maybe even a Prince or Copper John. If the water is high and murky, it’s time to fish Glo Bugs. These flies imitate fish eggs and the pattern first gained notoriety among Steelhead fishermen. As many of you know, Steelhead is an anadromous form of Rainbow Trout but unlike salmon they will feed over the winter although they spawn in the spring. Try colors like pink or yellow also know as Oregon Cheese in sizes 12-16 or even smaller. The trout love them!
We would also like to welcome veteran angler, Lenny Ruggia to our staff. On behalf of Chally, Lenny, Dan, fellow cheese head Don, and my partners Eric and George we would like to wish a safe and happy holiday season to all of you and success in the New Year!
Fly of the Month: Starling Soft Hackle by Chally Bates
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