Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gifts From Nature

Whitetail doe and her fawn
 Nature provides in so many ways.  Take the white-tailed deer for instance.  This mammal ranges throughout much of North America from desserts to swamps and boreal forests.  For many of us here in the northeast it may be the only large wild animal that one may be lucky enough to encounter (other than the occasional coyote, black bear or moose depending on where you live).  To some,  the white-tailed deer is valuable resource for sport and food.  To others, it is a beautiful creature that provides moments joy when encountered in a wild setting or a suburban backyard (unless you are someone who views them as pests for eating every plant in sight around your house or something to be avoided when zipping down the road at 80 mph).  I have encountered them just about everywhere from Long Island beaches to my backyard when growing up in the Hudson Valley.  I never grow tired of the brief encounters I have with them.  I am always fascinated by the way in which they can move through a dense forest with the ease and gracefulness of a ghost. But white-tailed deer provide yet another gift over looked by most people with the exception of fly fisherman.  Their fur is a great resource for fly tiers.  There are tens of dozens of patterns, dry and wet, that incorporate deer fur into a fly.  A few examples would be, Haystacks, Comparaduns, Clouser Minnows, Deer Hair Caddis, Blondes, and of course Bucktails.  The hair can be easily dyed into a number of colors and it can be spun into fantastic shapes with a little trimming to create some very versatile flies.  Because of it's properties, deer hair can be used for trout in cold water, bass and panfish in warm water and even for a number of salt water gamefish like stripers and bluefish.  I use deer hair in many types of flies that I tie for salt and fresh water and I encourage others to give it a try.  So the next time you come across one of these beautiful animals, realize that they more to offer than meets the eye. 


Mickey Finn

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dreaming of Open Water

Just what the doctor ordered
 With possibly another 8" of slushy wet white stuff predicted for today and tomorrow, what else can I do but dream of an open little stream like this one and think about where those beautiful little brookies might be hiding and what fly do I need to get them to come out and play.  Winter is a special time of year with it's own unique attributes.......but for the sake of relieving my acute onset cabin fever lets hope, like a house guest which has overstayed his welcome, it will be on it's way soon.

Peterskill, Minnewaska State Park Preserve, New Paltz, NY

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Hendrickson Sakasa Kebari

The Hendrickson Sakasa Kebari
 Streams and rivers are more than just places to find and catch our favorite types of fish.  They are incredibly diverse, beautiful and complex webs of life.  The life cycles of many stream inhabitants are truly amazing. Most anglers are acutely aware of the life cycles of most of a streams insects and fish.  However, there are far more animals and plants that thrive in and around streams.  Various amphibians, leeches, crayfish, small and large mammals, and birds also depend on streams and rivers for their survival. How all of these organisms interact with one another will determine how my main interest....trout, will behave.  Trout follow the same rules as most other animals, eat, reproduce and avoid being eaten.  One of a trout's main menu items are hendrickson may flies.  I will not go into their biology here.  For those interested, is a wonderful web site that details much about the aquatic insect life found stream side.  There are also some incredible photos to be found there.  It was after visiting that site I decided to create some more "realistic" sakasa kebari.  I will point out that with Tenkara this kind of fly tying is unnecessary.  For the most part anyone could catch fish with a simple black thread body/hackle fly.  Tenkara is more about an anglers skills and presentation than using the perfect fly.  I have tied this particular fly for fun and a little variety.  I included a orange silk thread head because it reminds me of the large eyes on a hendrickson mayfly and brown thread for the main body.  I also included a gray thread rib to simulate the segmentation in thorax and three moose hair fibers for a tail.  I am not really a "match the hatch" kind of guy, but I don't think a little more realism in my kebari is going to hurt my chances at bringing a trout to hand.  Who knows? it may even help my less than perfect Tenkara skills.

Hendrickson Sakasa Kebari
Hook: Mustad C49S
Hackle: Hungarian partridge
Body: Pearsall's silk, orange for the head and brown for the body
Rib: 6/0 gray uni-thread
Tail: Moose hair

A quiet place to contemplate

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Experimental Haystacks

Fran Better's Haystack
 Experimentation is a funny thing.  What characteristic at first seems to be a monstrosity or an oddball could eventually lead to something that becomes quite useful or even supplant the thing that it originally came from.  That's how evolution works (at a simplistic level) and has led to the beautiful diversity of life on this planet.  The same could be said for technology and many aspects of human culture.  It could even be said for the development of flies used in fishing.  Fran Better's Haystack was itself a modification of an earlier fly his father and his friends used.  The Haystack was in turn experimented on to produce the comparadun and sparkle dun.  I bring this up because just recently I was looking at Brk Trout's blog Small Stream Reflections and he has come up with a great new fly....."The Ausable Darter".  This fly is based on many of the same materials used by Fran Better's in his flies that have proved so effective at catching trout.  If you have not checked out his blog, you really should it has become one of my favorites.  This kind of experimentation is not only fun but this may become a very useful fly.

Royal Haystack, light
One of the first flies I learned to tie was a standard Haystack.  It was inexpensive to make and fun to do.  In addition, The Royal Haystack pictured above was not only my first adventure into experimental fly tying but also the first fly I ever caught a fish on.  It was a 5" wild brookie that I will never forget.  It was also my first fish caught on a Tenkara rod.  My point is that a fly that does not fit the expected norm can be weird looking but if it fools a fish who cares? It is now useful.  I have definitely had some flies that didn't fit the norm too.  One of them is at the bottom of this post.  Some of my flies have not worked well at all but it's the experimentation that helps keep excited about tying flies.  I would encourage others out there to do the kind experimentation that Brk Trout displays in his blog.  It's not only good for you but for the rest of us as well.

Royal Haystack, dark or dun

Latest experiment....a Golden Haystack

Front view of the Golden Haystack (golden pheasant tippets for wing and tail)
Will it catch fish?
I guess I'll have to experiment

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tenkara Fly Swap

Ausable Sakasa Kebari, my contribution to the swap
Last night I finally received a package that I have been eagerly waiting for (almost as much as my first Tenkara rod).  The flies from my first fly swap that I participated in just arrived.  I am having a hard time trying to decide whether I will fish them or not.  There are many cool color combinations and they very well tied.  They range in complexity from a simple black thread and hackle feather to the blue poison sakasa kebari and it's intricate parts.  The best part, in using Tenkara, is that all of these flies will catch fish.  I want to thank Erik Ostrander on the TenkaraUSA forum for organizing this fly swap and Daniel Galhardo for introducing Tenkara to the US and providing the forum for Tenkara fishers to be able to converse.  Below is a list of all of the fly swap participants.  I listed their Tenkara USA user names instead of their real names because I either do not know them or am unsure if they want their real names used here.  The pictures are in no particular order and I was unsure if names had been given to the flies or not but I did included them if a name had been provided.
CM_Stewart aka TenkaraBum
257 ROBT

1. Blue Poison Sakasa Kebari, goneflyfishing

2. 257 ROBT

3. Daniel @ Tenkara USA
4. Tenkara Bum

5. ezpickens

6. wupperfischer

7. wrknapp

8. erik.ostrander

9. gentlesheperd

10. jayfisher

11. masjc1

I also want to thank Daniel at Tenkara USA and Chris Stewart at TenkaraBum for the cool extras included with the flies.  I enjoyed doing this and look forward to the opportunity to try this again. In addition, if you go to the forum on TenkaraUSA's website there will be more in depth information about some of the flies pictured here. Great job on all of the flies guys!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I Guess This Means No Fishing?

Millpond in Setauket where I do most of my fishing for bass and bluegills.
 I'm not one to generally complain about snow, but really?  I love hiking in the snow and playing with my kids in it but this storm may have been a little too much.  Alina is twenty months old and loves to go out in the snow but it's just about up to her neck.  How is she or Bella supposed to move around, let alone play in the stuff?  Even trying to fish some of the tidal streams here on Long Island is a no go.  That leaves fly tying (which I love) and indoor games with the kids.  However, I don't like being inside too long, I need the fresh air even if it's in the 20's.

Looking toward the north end of the millpond and the bridge I usually fish from.
I guess all I can do is tie a little, dream of nice little brookies in small mountain streams, and wait till spring.  When the pond finally does open up this spring here are a couple of flies I'm looking forward to trying.

Diawl Bach, copper rib

Diawl Bach, red floss rib
 Diawl Bach's are supposed to be real good to fish in lakes and ponds and they are a cinch to tie.  They have only four materials, thread, brown hackle for a tail and beard, peacock herl for the body and wire or floss for a rib.  If anyone out there has used these successfully I would appreciate any comments.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fly Tying with Bella

My fly tying partner, Isabella
 One of the great things about being a Dad is the time you get to spend with your kids and the memories that are made.  Last November I posted about my first tying adventure with my little girl, Bella.  There was a very positive response to this post in the blogging community that I had recently joined.  It was nice to know that there were a number of other parents out there who were sharing time with their children and introducing them to outdoor related activities in a positive way.  I have been a Dad now for almost 5 years and if there is one thing that has definitely hit home with me is that the time with them goes very fast.  Before I know it Bella and Alina will be teenagers and then off to college.  I try to keep this in mind and take every opportunity to share everything with them, including my love of the outdoors and all that goes with it.  Recently Bella had another chance to "design a fly" with her daddy. 

The Purple Fuzzy Kebari
The Purple Fuzzy Kebari is Bella's latest sakasa kebari.  I laid out the materials and then she told me how she wanted them placed on the hook.  Then she gave it it's name.  She was eager to go try it out on some bluegills right then and there but I had to explain to her that we would have to wait till spring and the ice to melt before that.  I look forward to that day with great anticipation.  Like Bella's first fly, it doesn't matter if a fish is caught or not, the time together will be what counts.

Purple Fuzzy Kebari

Hook: Mustad C49S
Thread: Pearsall's silk, purple
Hackle: Hungarian partridge
Body: dubbed Australian opossum
Rib: fine gold wire

Friday, January 7, 2011

One Year Anniversary, Part II

Orange & Herl Sakasa Kebari
 In today's post I thought I would continue with the one year anniversary theme and give some pointers to anyone out there who may decide to take up the addictive hobby of fly tying (Disclaimer:  you have been warned.  This hobby is addictive and consuming.  Have you ever played the game tetris and seen pieces falling from the top of a screen when your eyes were closed and you were sleeping?....Fly tying is a lot like that.  The exception is that the "pieces" you see in your head are hooks, feathers, threads, etc.).  This advice is based on my experience and you may use it for what it's worth.

Pearsall's silk thread
 If you are new to fly fishing, like I was, before you pick up the phone to place that order for all sorts of expensive hackle, stop and do some research.  Read fly tying books and browse the net.  There are literally thousands and thousands of patterns out there for fishing under every conceivable condition and for every type of fish.  It can quickly become confusing and expensive if no thought is put into it.  My first and foremost suggestion would always be get the biggest bang for you buck and start simple.  Kits with all the materials included could be the answer for some but I wouldn't recommend them.  Flies that can be tied with these kits can be difficult to learn or not necessarily useful to you on your home waters.  If you become frustrated and give up, you are left with a big pile of useless feathers and fur that cost a quite a bit of money.  You should first ask yourself, what kind of fishing will I be doing? (type of water, small mt stream vs a lake or where in the water, top and dry fly vs bottom and nymph/wet fly).  If you are an experienced fly fisherman you already know what patterns you may be interested in tying.  For the newbie,  pick a small handful of materials that will allow you to tie the greatest amount of flies or variety of flies (biggest bang for your buck and start simple). 

Hungarian partridge
 For example,  if you are interested in wet flies, soft hackle wet flies may be a great choice to start with.  They are generally easy to tie, do not require many expensive materials like dry fly hackle, and are deadly on most waters.  Most styles and patterns have been around for hundreds of years. I am very fond of these types of flies and tie many of them using Hungarian partridge.  Most fly tying supply houses sell these for around $25-$30.  In terms of materials, this would be the largest ticket item to tie these types of flies.  Buy the whole skin, don't be cheap and go with the loose packets of feathers, trust me.  In some instances, for less money, pheasant or some other upland game bird will do.  In any case, with the whole skin you will have a range of feather sizes and colors and will literally be able to tie hundreds of flies. 

Uni-Thread 6/0 various colors
 The next essential item is thread.  Most threads will do.  I personally prefer Pearsall's silk thread for most of my flies but it's a little on the pricey side at about $4 a spool.  In many instances I use uni-thread size 6/0 (usually $1.50-$2 spool).  If you can only purchase a few spools or either brand, make sure you purchase colors of black, olive, tan,  pale yellow, gray.  These colors will cover the largest range of insects that trout may encounter.  I also would add a fire or hot orange for some patterns to act as an attractant.  At this point your good to go once you have some appropriate hooks.  But with a small addition of some peacock herl, some small wire or tinsel and some dubbing for a little extra (~$15-20) you could tie a couple hundred different variations of the soft hackle wet fly and not grow tired of tying the same pattern over and over.

Snowshoe Rabbit Feet
 Another example of a pattern that would be inexpensive to tie would be simple learning to tie is Fran Better's "Usual."  The Usual is essentially a dry fly but depending on the tactics employed it can be fished as a dry, emerger, or nymph.  It can represent just about anything including a mayfly, caddis, or terrestrial.  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PERFECT FLY.  But the Usual comes damn close.  The best part is it is a breeze to tie and only consists of two materials....snowshoe rabbit fur from the underpad of the foot and thread!  Once you have the hooks and thread (fire orange works nice as do black, olive, pale yellow) a rabbit's foot will run you about $2.50-$5 each and you can tie dozens of flies from a single foot. 
The only other items you need are head cement, dubbing wax, and hooks.  Each of these may cost $5-$7.  Fly tying tools are also necessary, of course.  My recommendation for these would be to buy a simple beginners set, such as those available at Cabela's ($25-$40) then as you progress (become more obsessed) with time go for those more expensive vises and tools.  Don't drop a huge amount of dough until you know this is what you want to do.  Remember start simple, pick flies that will be easier to tie and useful in more fishing circumstances, and get the most bang for your buck, pick materials that will allow for either a greater variety of flies or large amount of flies. Until later...Happy Tying!



Wednesday, January 5, 2011

One Year Anniversary, Part I

Light Caddis, Classic Wet Fly
This month I'm celebrating a very minor anniversary in the grand scheme of things.  It was a year ago this month that I took up the absorbing hobby of fly tying.  Before I go on I need to back up a little.  At the end of 2009, while tooling around on the internet looking at various fishing articles I came across a small reference to something called Tenkara.  Interested, I search for all the info I could get my hands on (which at the time was very little).  After researching Tenkara and going to for an idea of what was available, I decided that Tenkara was my ticket into the world of fly fishing.  Fly fishing for trout was something I had always wanted to do since I was a kid.  Little did I realize that taking up Tenkara was like getting my first taste of crack.  Tenkara accounted for 90% of all the fishing I did last year.  I'm sure there were a number of striped bass that were pretty happy about my choice.  Prior to purchasing my Yamame, I decided that I would also enjoy the satisfaction of catching a fish on a fly I tied myself.  If  I thought Tenkara became addictive, fly tying was the other side of the same coin.  In anticipation of getting my Tenkara rod I purchased a fly tying tool kit from Cabela's and some tying materials and dove head first into whatever book about fly tying I could get my hands on.  Before I had even made my first cast I was tying various classic wet flys and dries like Fran Better's Haystack.  I then became drawn to soft hackle flies tied in the north country or spider tradition.  Their simplicity, ease of tying and effectiveness made me a convert.  From there it wasn't even a hop-skip-and-jump to tying sakasa kebari (which are now my favorites if you couldn't have guessed by now).  However, I like to be creative.  I like the different qualities of many of the types of flies I have learned to tie and therefore try to combine them whenever I can. Most of the flies I have previously posted are the result of this effort.  In Tenkara fishing, it has been demonstrated that with the right techniques anyone could fish one pattern only and catch fish.  I agree with this, as on many occasions I have fished only one or two patterns in a particular day and caught plenty of fish.  However, from a fly tying perspective tying a single pattern of anything would become boring real fast, so, I keep thinking up new patterns to tie.

Cardinal Sakasa Kebari
Now,  I have had many hobbies over the years.  Most of them cause my wife to roll her eyes and say to her self  "what dorky thing is he up to now" or "what happened to....?"  I have tried many things including, flintknapping (making stone arrowheads from ancient tools), carving moose antler, or scrimshaw using mammoth ivory.  All of these hobbies have had something in common.  They were all related by trying to be creative with using natural materials that come from nature.  For one reason or another many of these hobbies were laid aside.  But I think in fly tying I have a winner that may last a lifetime.  It is a relaxing hobby which allows me to creatively use natural materials from an artistic point of view but more importantly for an outdoor activity that is fun and could potentially have survival ramifications if ever need be. If you fly fish or not I would highly recommend it.  In my next post (part II),  I am going to give some pointers to any beginers out there based on the experiences my first year.   

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bubble Kebari

The Bubble Kebari
 A couple nights ago I was sitting at the snack tray/fly tying table trying to think up some new sakasa kebari variations when I came up with this guy....The Bubble Kebari.  Actually, to be more specific this would be a variation of a takayama sakasa kebari because of the peacock herl collar.  There are many reasons why a trout, or any other fish for that matter, may decide to inhale a fly.  Throughout the literature on fly fishing I have come across the idea of "trigger points" being the reason for the fish to strike the fly.  These trigger points are usually based on size, shape, color, and types of movement.  The reverse hackle of a sakasa kebari or a north country fly is a trigger point that suggests life when moving along with the current or during the act of manipulating the fly.  If it's alive it could be food.  There is another idea out there proposed by the late Gary Lafontaine (with his sparkle pupa) and others (gold bead heads on nymphs) that air bubbles trapped by or used by an aquatic insects to raise to the surface may act as an attractant. It is with that in mind that I added a small collar of medium silver tinsel to the body of the fly.  Not only is this "bubble" visible from distance in the right light, I found that it looks like the real thing when placed in a glass of water next to another fly (a submerged Usual) with traped air bubbles.  I have tied them without the herl collar and with black and tan bodies.  The "bubble is very striking on a black bodied fly.  In addition, I tied the tinsel in a strip along the back for a string of "bubbles."  It's also easier to tie it this way.  I think may be a nice little fly to try.  Now, if the winter would only be on it's way so I can try out a few of these newer patterns I'd be a much happier camper

Bubble Kebari
Hook: Mustad C49S
Body: Uni-thread 6/0, olive (or black, tan, gray, cream, etc.)
Collar: peacock herl (optional)
Hackle: Hungarian partridge
Collar #2: medium silver tinsel (or can be tied in a strip along the back of the body but the collar is visible from all angles)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

Alina enjoying the first snow of the year
Well 2011 is finally here and I wish a Happy New Year to all!  The last week of 2010 was a busy one and I didn't have much time to post anything. I had the week off and spent most of it enjoying time with my family.  We had our first significant snow fall of the winter with about 14" of the white stuff. I find this is a great time to be a parent. I can go out and enjoy sledding and snowball fights like when I was a kid and no one gives me funny looks because I'm doing it with my kids. 

Don't let Bella's smile fool, you she is a devious snowball fighter
I also managed to get one fishing trip in.  My final 2010 trip was also my last "skunking" of the year, though it didn't matter.  Just to be outside and have some time off was just what the doctor ordered.  Hopefully my first 2011 winter fishing trip will be more fruitful.  During the week I also managed to finish tying the last of my flies for a fly swap I joined on the Tenkara USA forum a few weeks ago (  I tied a dozen Ausable Sakasa Kebari and sent them on their way.

One dozen Ausable Sakasa Kebari

I have only managed to see a few of the flies that are to be exchanged but I'm having a hard time waiting to see what the others will look like.  One really nice fly can be found at .  It's called the "Blue Poison Sakasa Kebari" and it not only has a cool name but its a beautiful fly.  I have also seen Daniel Galhardo's (founder of Tenkara USA) fly.  He posted a great video of how to tie a sakasa kebari style fly.  I planned to post a picture of all the flies from the swap when they arrive.  If I don't, several of the other participants in the fly swap are planning to do the same on their blogs or the Tenkara USA flies part of the forum.  Until then I will just have to keep waiting and keep tying.