Many years ago I used to tie my dry flies with thick clumps of spade hackle and could not explain why I got many refusals from rising trout. It finally dawned on me that I was using way too many hackle fibers in the tail. I had been using so many that it possibly looked like part of the fly’s body to the trout. Even though I may have been tying a dry fly on a size 14 hook which matched the natural insects, by the time I tied in a very thick clump of tail hackle fibers, my fly looked like a size 10 to the trout. I now use only enough spade hackle or straight moose body hair for my dry fly tails to help float my flies and my catch is greatly improved.
This months fly fishing question and answers podcast includes Harry Murray discussing the swing nymphing technique used with Scientific Angler Indicators, hook sharpening files, barbless vs. barbed hooks, landing nets, and what insect repellent can do to your favorite fly rod.
In order to improve the durability of my flies when I tie them, I like to place a mini-drop of head cement at each tie-in and tie-off spot as I add a new material. I find that a easy way to do this is to keep some head cement in a hypodermic needle and just place a mini-drop where I need it. In order to keep the cement from drying in the syringe and plugging the needle shut, I stick it in a cork between steps.
For me fly tying cement has two main purposes. One is to hold the fly together and the second is to coat a pretty head on the flies. I make my own head cement so since I want the flies I tie to be durable I use a vehicle which enhances its ability to penetrate deeply into the materials and thread. This produces a fly which is almost indestructible. In order to coat a pretty head on my streamers I use my thicker head cement.
Many years ago two elderly gentlemen in my advanced fly tying college class made a simple request: Teach us to tie a dry fly that floats like a cork, that we can easily see on the water and that matches many of the early season natural insects. I thought this was a reasonable request and the Mr. Rapidan Dry Fly was born. Today this is my favorite dry fly on the Epeorus pleuralis hatch in size 14, for the Stenomena vicarium hatch in size 14, for the Stenomena fuscum hatch in size 16 and for the Beatis hatch in sizes 18 and 20. I have now expanded the Mr. Rapidan series to match three different adult caddisflies, two different caddis pupa, two mayfly nymphs, two mayfly emergers, midges, two different soft hackles, terrestrials, streamers and even smallmouth dry flies. Those two gentlemen had an outstanding idea which has helped hundreds of anglers catch thousands of fish all across the country.
For very small nymphs I often use natural furs right off the skin after removing the guard hairs. These furs produce flies with a very effective sheen which mimics the subdued luster of the natural nymphs. These are very easy to dub and are inexpensive.
In today’s fly fishing podcast Harry Murray discusses the tactics and fly patterns which are effective for fishing for trout during the Brown Sedge Caddisfly hatch which is on during September. His discussion of fishing the emerging pupa as a dropper below the Mr. Rapidan Delta Wing Dry Fly will help you catch many large trout. Harry also discusses the special feeding stations in the pools where he is catching many trout on the Mr. Rapidan Ants and the special casts which help him.
Over the last three years Harry and his son, Jeff have been developing special Riffle Hitch Techniques and flies which are effective for smallmouth bass. Today Harry describes how to fish this riffle hitch and the new flies which are effective.
For dry flies I like to use a very fine poly blend of dubbing material such as Fly Rite 34 on the left which I use on my Mr. Rapidan Dry Flies. This material is very fine, making it easy to dub flies as small as a size 24 with a smoothly tapered body. It is lighter than water and is does not adsorb water thus producing a high floating dry fly. This comes in many colors and is inexpensive.
For nymphs and pupa I like to dub blends of natural furs because these produce buggy looking insect bodies. Counter wrapping these bodies with gold, silver, copper or olive wire produces a neatly segmented tapered fly body. However, if you wind the same ribbing materials with a forward motion you can produce an insect body with translucent living appearance.
When you are designing a new streamer to match a specific minnow it is great to tie one that looks so much like the real minnow that it impresses your friends. However, when you are on the river fishing the fish appear to take the streamers which ACT like the real minnow they are accustomed to feeding on in that area. It is great when your new streamer looks like that specific minnow but for consistent success it is a must that your new fly ACT like the real minnow in the way it swims through the currents and darts for cover when it is chased by a fish. After a great deal of experimenting with materials and tying techniques, the Murray’s Madtom Sculpin Streamer evolved into a streamer which acts like a real minnow and the fish take quickly. Check the prevalent minnows in your streams and see if you can developed an effective streamer.
In this fly fishing podcast, Harry Murray discusses a broad variety of questions ranging from fishing small mountain trout streams to large western trout streams to river fishing for smallmouth bass. Some of the topics covered include:
Personally I enjoy entomology. I found that working with Art Flick in the sixties in order to identify the aquatic insects in Virginia very rewarding and it was the beginning of a very special friendship. We now have many excellent books on aquatic entomology so if you enjoy this I believe you will find it very rewarding. However, one of the greatest trout anglers and finest gentleman I have ever known used a different approach. He was not into technical entomology, but he did not seem to need it. When he saw large tan natural aquatic insects on the stream he would take an artificial fly from his box which matched it and catch many trout. If he saw small yellow natural insects on the stream he would go to his fly box and match it with great success. His name was Jack Sperry and he was a true master angler.
In this fly fishing podcast, Harry Murray discusses the tactics which are effective for large trout using Shenk’s Letort Hoppers and Shenk’s Crickets in some of our best streams all across the country. He also covers the methods for fishing his “change of pace” flies for trout.
In the second portion of this fly fishing podcast Harry discusses the methods he is using in August for smallmouth bass with great success using his Floating Chub Minnow and Floating Dace Minnow in specific sections of the rivers. He also covers the areas and tactics which are effective with the Murray’s Crayfish.
Ideal Flies. Select the flies you carry to the stream carefully so you can meet the demands at that specific time. One day on the Yellowstone River at Livingston, Montana I handed my wife a small fly box containing a dozen flies and showed her where to fish a beautiful riffle as we entered the stream. My guide of seventeen years, Ray Hurley, and I headed upstream to fish some heavy water. Ray paused and said, “Just what twelve flies did you give your wife?” When I told him he smiled and said, “She is better equipped than ninety percent of the fishermen on the Yellowstone River.” In order to help you have the right flies at the right time I have put hatch charts in my three trout books and two smallmouth bass books. I also present a podcast at the beginning of each month where I discuss the fly needs and the hatches for the coming month. My weekly “Anglers Club Newsletter” provides great timely information on the fishing and current fly needs as does my free Monthly Newsletter.
Great sections of smallmouth bass rivers to fish are the areas just upstream of the public access areas. These receive much less serious fishing pressure than you would expect, even though many boats take out here everyday. I suspect that this is because by the time most anglers get to the take-out-spot they are either running late, or they are tired or they are drunk! Often I wade into these areas and fish surface bugs such as the Shenandoah Blue Popper right against the bank as I wade upstream for several hundred yards then wade further out into the river or even to the far bank then fish streamers back downstream to the access point.
It is hard to fix it if you do not know what is broken. That is where I was when I started fly fishing for smallmouth bass in the sixties. As a youngster growing up in Edinburg, Virginia on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River in the fifties we all caught many smallmouth bass on real hellgrammites as live bait. However, for my fly fishing after college none of the existing Hellgrammite patterns worked for me. The beautifully tired patterns I got from Abercrombie and Fitch in New York which they called Hellgrammites just did not work. When I started fishing the Yellowstone River in Montana I had Dan Bailey’s girls tie a dozen two inch long versions of his beautiful woven body Mossback Nymphs because these looked to me like my hellgrammites back in Virginia. These we also failures for the smallmouth bass. Finally Ron Kommer came up with the idea of using Ostrich Herl (or plume) for very large flies. Simultaneously, I was experimenting with real hellgrammites by tossing them into the river to see how they acted. When I dropped the real hellgrammites into the river one by one, I saw that they swam downstream with an exaggerated undulating action as they headed for the streambottom. Finally I saw what was broken: All of these beautiful earlier hellgrammite patterns lacked the capacity to move in an undulating manner like the natural hellgrammites. By incorporating the ostrich herl as an extended body in this new fly and tying it “in the round” as Charlies Brookes recommended to me, the final Murray’s Heavy Hellgrammite was developed. This is so effective that today it is my favorite smallmouth bass fly.
In this Fly Fishing Question and Answer Podcast, Harry Murray discusses questions that he has been asked over the last month through phone calls and emails at his fly shop in Edinburg, Virginia. What type of fly rod should I be using when nymph fishing? How can I enjoy fly fishing when I have hurt my casting arm? How can I improve my fishing in low, clear water when the fish are easily spooked? How many reels should I carry with me when on a fishing trip?
About two hours before dark on a beautiful August evening I waded across the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, intending to fish one of my favorite riffles fifty yards downstream. The water along the bank right in front of me was only two feet deep and the aquatic grassbed reached twenty feet out into the river. A large smallmouth bass crashed into the grass to catch a shiner minnow just upstream of me. A few seconds later he captured another shiner minnow as he swam upstream along the edge of the grassbed. I felt this was too good for me to pass up! I cast a Silver Outcast Streamer upstream ahead of his path and he took it solidly. As I landed the large bass I noticed more bass chasing shiner minnows upstream through the grassbeds. By wading slowly upstream I caught many more large bass by going one on one with them as I spotted them chasing shiner minnows. When you are on the water at dusk keep an eye out for this type action because it is very exciting.
Many farmers along the Shenandoah River are wisely using electric fences to keep their cattle out of the river except at special locations. These can really ZAP you. My favorite way to cope with these is to remove my vest and other items and place that and the rod on the far side of the fence well out of the way and then crawl under the fence.
Deer Hair Bass Surface Bugs are easy to tie and are very effective to fish. Here are some tips which help beginning fly tyers in the winter classes I teach in my fly shop tie great deer hair bass bugs. The most important step is to remove all of the fuzz and short hair from each bunch of deer hair as you trim it from the skin. To do this I hold the trimmed bunch of hair by the tips and brush it vigorously with a stiff toothbrush. Next I like to keep the hook shank free of thread wraps except right where I tie the tail in. I also like to use Kevlar tying thread to reduce thread-breakage. Trim the finished bug very closely on the stomach in order to hook the bass securely. Paint the stomach of the bug right along the hook shank with spar varnish cut 50-50 with paint thinner to make the bug very durable. Keep the bug’s appendages on the sides (such as wings and legs) to a minimum so the bug does not twist the leader when casting. The Tapply Hair Bug and the Murray’s Deer Hair Bass Bug Series are good examples of smooth, very effective Deer Hair Bass Bugs.
When I am fishing the back country for trout or more than a mile away from my Jeep on a smallmouth bass river, I always carry a breathable-waterproof raincoat in the back of my fishing vest. This has to pack down small enough to easily fit into my vest. The Simms Hyalite Rain Shell Jacket is perfect. Staying dry is important even in the summer months. Once on a five mile smallmouth river summer float trip two of the five anglers in our group had no raincoats. Three hours up the river from our take-out the rain started and continued heavily all day. Even though we all offered to share our raincoats, the two wet anglers refused. By the time we got to the take out spot our friends were shivering badly. Imagine how cold these two anglers would have been if our float trip had been in March or October.
Last summer a friend took two of his fishing buddies into a small remote mountain trout stream. He had fished the stream before and felt confident in taking them to the best part of the stream. Unfortunately, he forgot to take his map with him. There were many small trails leading off the main trail that he had forgotten. They hiked for three hours and never did find the stream and finally climbed back up to the top of the mountain and came home. I have been lost twice in the mountains when I was trying to take shortcuts to the streams. Once you are on the stream you should be okay in finding your way. However, some find mountain trout streams have no trails in or out and there may be private land at the lower end of the stream where trespassing is not allowed. I always have the map in my vest for the stream I am fishing in the back country.
As I am doing this fly fishing podcast I am realizing that many of you are going to be enjoying the outdoors this July 4th weekend by the phone calls, emails, and orders the fly shop has been receiving. Please be safe and considerate of the land owners and others as you take in natures beauty. I plan to enjoy it myself!
Trout Fishing In this podcast I want to discuss the how, when, and where to fish my new “change of pace” dry flies for trout that feed selectively. I thought that if I could develop a different fly which showed the trout a new silhouette and light pattern that matched a natural food they feed upon, I might be able to catch these trout. By experimenting I developed the Murray’s Housefly Dry, Oakworm Dry, Yellow Jacket Dry, Moth Dry, Wasp Dry, and Horsefly Dry. I fish all of these with a Classic 9ft 6X Leader.
Bass Fishing The smallmouth bass fishing has been excellent due to the great food load and the rains keeping the water levels up. Hence, in a recent school one of our instructors stuck a smallmouth bass that was over 5 pounds on our Murray’s Crayfish pattern while showing the class the swing nymph technique. Our topwater action is picking up and we have been doing very well with our famous Shenandoah Blue Popper. I fish these on a Bright Butt 9ft. 2X Leader.
My Stream Thermometer is a very important part of my trout and smallmouth bass angling. For example, on mountain trout streams the first thing I do is take the stream temperature. In early March if it is much below 40 degrees I know I will catch more trout on nymphs than I will on drys. In August a mountain trout stream temperature of 68 degrees in the afternoon means the trout are not going to feed heavily. The next trip I should get there about dawn when the stream may be several degrees cooler. A smallmouth bass trip early in the spring with a river temperature of 52 degrees tells me to fish my flies slowly along the streambottom. These stream temperatures go on my calendar at home along with readings over the last twelve years. Checking these helps me plan future trips on where to go and what to use.
This months fly fishing questions and answers podcast includes techniques to use for the trico hatch that is coming very soon, a simple and easy method to untwist those bass lines and leaders, a technique to fish the hellgrammites and the best way to handle thunderstorms during a float trip on the river.
The Grizzly Hen Hackle tips you see here is one of my favorite dry fly winging material when I want to show distinct wing outline. Using this in a spent wing position is what I believe makes the Murray’s Housefly such an effective fly, prompting strikes from trout which pass up regular flies. Adams Dry flies tied with these wings are preferred by many anglers. The webby texture of these feathers enable us to tie very attractive and effective nymph with them.
Every time I watch the movie The River Runs Through It my memory brings up the wonderful fishing I have had on the Blackfoot River. The abundance of trout and few anglers makes this a wonderful stream to fish.
When the dry fly fishing is fast and I am catching many cutthroats in the mountain trout streams in the Rockies or brook trout in the Eastern mountain streams, my goal is to raise and hook many trout and then release them as quickly as I can so I do not stress them. My Pop Strike consists of setting the hook on the strike so I know I have fooled him, then two or three seconds later I release all of the tension on the fly line. This enables more than half of my trout to swim freely away.
Recent rains have left the North Fork of the Shenandoah River and the South Fork of the Shenandoah River high and muddy (6/5/16). We’re hopeful the upper North Fork of the Shenandoah will be fishable by mid-week.
Some of the studies are now suggesting we reapply a broad spectrum water proof 50 sun blocking lotion every eighty minutes while we are on the stream. I personally use the little lip coating sticks about every hour also.
The second portion of the podcast is dedicated to the smallmouth fishing we are getting now and what we can expect throughout June. He covers the natural hellgrammite’s actions and the best flies and tactics to catch the bass which are feeding upon them. He also discusses the great fishing we are getting the Shenandoah Blue Popper by fishing these along the shaded banks. Effective flies include: Murray’s Heavy Black Hellgrammite size 4 and 6, Shenandoah Blue Popper size 4 and 6
I started my son, Jeff, fly fishing when he was five years old. He enjoyed it tremendously. He learned fly fishing very quickly and it gave us many wonderful trips and memories together. As I have helped many youngsters over the years, I have discovered that the main goal they have is to catch fish. It does not matter if they are trout, smallmouth bass or panfish, they just want to catch fish, the more the better! I always try to find places for them to fish where the water is not over knee-deep on them and where the weeds along the stream are not over knee-deep. My goal is for them to have a great time and a memorable trip. We are now offering special “Fly Fishing Schools” for kids from 8 years old to 16 years old. We provide the rod, reel, stream access and instruction. See our website for dates and information.
I was fishing with a good friend on the Madison River when he called from two hundred feet downstream that he needed help. When I got to him he pointed his fly rod at me and exclaimed, “Look”! I could easily see that the top section of his four piece fly rod was missing. He said that when he made his regular forward cast the tip section of his fly rod slipped off, tore the fly off and shot out into the river and he could not catch it. When I asked him if he ever put ferrule dressing on his ferrules he looked at me with an embarrassed look and answered, “well…no”. This spring I had a beginning anglers break a new rod in a similar situation. A good friend of mine recently broke his favorite rod when he jammed its dry ferrule together and broke the rod trying to get it apart. All of these problems could have been prevented if the anglers had regularly applied Murray’s Ferrule Dressing to their ferrules.
This segment of our fly fishing questions and answers podcast includes Harry Murray discussing 1) the importance of recording stream notes on a calendar to help plan future trips, 2) mentally marking previous hot spots on the streams in order to return to fish these areas later, 3) the pros and cons of attaching the leader to the fly line with loops vs. needle knots, and 4) camping at the upper forks on mountain trout streams to get great fishing.
The most dependable way to get good information on what you might encounter on a new float trip is to talk to someone who has floated that area recently, then follow their advice. Two years ago a friend in Montana did not follow this advice and he flipped his boat and drowned. Recently two friends did not ask me about floating a smallmouth bass river and I believe they relied only on a guide book. The float trip they had planned should have taken six hours. As it turned out it took them seventeen hours. They had to cross three large dams and they finally got out of the river at three in the morning, naturally in the dark. The next time they asked me where to float!
You become aware that your fly line is twisted when you are standing in the river casting. This is easy to fix. Remove the fly from the leader and cast straight downstream forty feet, as the current pulls out all of the slack line strip forty feet more line from the reel and feed it downstream. Allow this to hang tight in the current for ten minutes then crank it back in and the twist will be removed.
Fly Fishing Stream Report for May. In the first part of this podcast Harry Murray discusses the wonderful dry fly fishing that you can find in May by covering the aquatic insect hatch throughout May, the best fly patterns to match each one and the effective tactics. In the second part Harry discusses the specific sections of the rivers which gives us good smallmouth action in May. He discusses the flies, leaders, and fly lines that help us in the different feeding stations as well as the most effective tactics in the different sections of the river.
When I float a river to get out a downstream spot, I carry a dry bag with what I may need along the way. This contains a rain coat, change of clothes, basic tools, extra reel with line and leader, a few flies and a five piece Scott Fly Rod. If I am using an inflatable boat I carry a pump and patch kit. On two occasions I have had a friend who needed my Scott five piece rod because they broke their fly rod. This really saved the day and they were able to get good fishing when otherwise it would have been a lost day.
I keep a variety of tools in the back of my Jeep to help when unexpected events occur. It is amazing how often I need some of this for myself or angling friends. Here are some of the items I carry with me: a thirty foot long heavy tow cable, a ten foot wire cable with a winch, an ax, a timber saw, jumper cables, folding shovel, a variety of sizes of screwdrivers and wrenches, rope, large and small flashlights, change of clothes, extra fly rod and reel, extra flies, first aid kit, emergency food, a tire pump that runs off the cigarette lighter, fire extinguisher and a heavy duty battery to jump car battery.
There are days when the smallmouth bass feed heavily on minnows and fishing streamers catches these fish. However, there are days when they feed mostly on natural nymphs and we catch these smallmouth bass on “artificial nymphs”. Realizing this, I decided to develop one fly to be fished as a Streamer to catch the minnow feeders as well as matching the natural nymphs which could be fished as a Nymph. I developed the Strymph drawing on Ron Kommer’s idea of using ostrich herl in the tail and Charlie Brooks concept of tying underwater flies “in the round”. Thus the Strymph can be fished upstream dead drift and across the current in a swing nymphing method both of which match our natural nymphs. The Strymph can easily be fished across stream with a deep swimming action which matches all of our minnows. Simply stated, there is no wrong way to fish the Murray’s Strymph, and it is equally effective for both smallmouth bass and trout. If you are interested in learning how to tie the Murray’s Strymph, here is the tying kit or you can just purchase the tying instructions recipe sheet.
I find it rewarding and exciting to mentally mark the hot spots of each days fishing and then take advantage of this on my future fishing trips. Knowing where that exceptionally large smallmouth bass lived on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River close to Edinburg, Virginia enabled me to catch the large smallmouth bass several times over the years. The upper section of Lemar with the big boulders below the last bridge always produce several large cutthroats. And the most productive area on the Outer Banks for sea trout was twenty four power poles North of Buxton in the Sound.
Have questions? Give us a call (540-984-4212) or drop us an email info@ murraysflyshop.com. We are here to help. Contents of my “Rod Repair Kit“: Ferrule Cement, Emory Board or 320+ grit sandpaper, Lighter or Matches, Variety of sizes of Tip Top Guides and a Razor Blade.
Maps – When hiking into remote mountain trout streams it is wise to have the topographic map for that area in your vest, pack or pouch. There are many trails throughout the mountains and it is easy to get lost. A friend tried to fine one recently without the map. It should have taken him forty five minutes to get to the trout stream, however he hiked three hours and never did find the trout stream.
Before the regular anglers around West Yellowstone got to know Charlie Brooks they called him Mr. Monotone. Brook’s, who was a very special friend told me one day when we were fishing the Madison that he finally figured out the name came from the camouflaged clothing he wore most of the time. Since Brook’s fished every day when he first moved to West Yellowstone, he was either on his way to the stream or on his way back when people saw him. Since Brooks was one of the most capable anglers I have ever known, I fully respect his desire to wear subdued colored clothing when fishing. To this day I always wear subdued colored clothing. I really do believe this helps catch wary fish. For example, I was shocked the day a supposed well-traveled angler showed up for a bass float trip wearing a white t-shirt and white hat and insisted on standing up in the front of our Hyde Drift Boat to fish all day…nope, he caught no large fish.