Learning to find the primary feeding stations for trout is the most valuable thing an angler can learn.
The largest trout in the pool selects what I call the Primary Feeding Station. This location enables the trout to capture the maximum amount of food while expending the least amount of energy.
Experience on the stream will teach you to identify these with great accuracy. I saw my fishing partner prove this. He allowed himself only one cast into each pool on ten consecutive pools… He caught ten trout.
PO Box 156
121 South Main Street
Edinburg, Virginia 22824
Phone Number: 540-984-4212
Since the bass fishing has slowed down I want to discuss an effective approach for developing and tying your own bass flies that will help you catch more bass in your own waters. A logical starting point is to consider the areas you fish and look at the specific flies you fish in each situation and are these flies productive or not. I will be discussing my Murray’s Hellgrammite, Strymph, Magnum Streamer Series, and Floating Minnows.
My next fly tying class will be on Saturday, January 14 from 10a.m. to noon at Murray’s Fly Shop.
For more information visit our website or stop by my fly shop at
121 S. Main St, Edinburg VA 22824 Ph 540-984-4212
Fly fishing essentials- must haves include a variety of gear, an extra fly box is an easy one.
For my trout fishing I carry the flies I need for each trip in one small fly box in my chest pack. When doing this on the Armstrong last year I lost my main fly box and had to fish with those flies that were on my dry fly patch. Ever since that day I have carry a second small fly box with a dozen emergency flies in my chest pack.
Murray’s Fly Shop
121 South Main Street
PO Box 156
Edinburg, Virginia 22824
Phone Number: 540-984-4212
Safe wading techniques are paramount to your enjoyment while on the water. Several years ago I almost drowned at the Outer Banks when I foolishly waded into water that was too deep while wearing chest high waders. I now do two things differently. Since I now fish there after May, I always wade wet figuring I can swim better with no waders. I also wear a inflatable life belt.
Murray’s Fly Shop
121 South Main Street
PO Box 156
Edinburg, Virginia 22824
Phone Number: 540-984-4212
I use Chest High Waders when I am fishing large trout streams and smallmouth bass rivers. I wear hippers when I am fishing mountain trout streams. If I walk into a mountain trout streams for two miles or less I wear my hippers to walk in. If I plan to walk in more than two miles, I hang my hippers over my shoulder and wear hiking shoes to walk in, then stick my shoes up on the bank and put my hippers on to fish. After I finish fishing, I put my hiking shoes back on and carry my hippers to walk back out of the mountain.
I never head into any stream without my Folstaf Wading Staff. Many anglers readily see the safety advantages of using a Wading Staff when fishing deep water. However, if you do slip and fall into water which is waist deep you get wet. But remember if you fall down in water which is ankle deep, you can easily break bones. I have tested many different styles of wading staffs, but I like my Folstaff Wading Staff best of all because it is very durable and dependable.
Each year I get asked, “What kind of fly fishing can I expect for November and December in Virginia?’
November and December provide outstanding fly fishing for large trout and smallmouth bass. However, the cooling streams and the natural foods change the feeding habits of the fish and we get our best results by adjusting our fly selections and angling tactics accordingly.
In order for you to get good fishing I will break down my three favorite forms of angling at this time of the year. First we’ll look at my favorite Pennsylvania fishing, then we’ll discuss Virginia’s Delayed Harvest Streams and large stocked trout streams and finally I’ll cover the smallmouth fishing.
Don’t forget I will be holding fly fishing workshops on Saturdays in my fly shop from 10a.m. to noon. I cover many topics including fly tying, fly casting, trout fishing, bass fishing and selecting the proper fly rods. To see the schedule and to sign up…visit our website.
The second portion of this fly fishing podcast, Harry goes into detail on where to catch large bass in November, the areas the bass are holding in, and the best tactics. He also explains why he uses a Sinking Line with Fluorocarbon 6ft Leaders.
In this fly fishing newsletter I want to discuss the little olives and the best techniques to catch the large bass.
Trout Fishing– Vince Marinaro looked me straight in the eyes and exclaimed, “Don’t overlook the little olives, just never overlook the little olives”. He was referring to the multi-brooded beatis and pseudocleon mayfly hatches that can be outstanding in November.
Bass Fishing–For the last several years I’ve been able to fish for smallmouth bass well into November with good success. My success comes by fishing the deepest pools with a fast sinking head fly line which enables me to swim large streamers slowly along the stream bottom.
To read my entire fly fishing newsletter for November, click here.
In my Fly Casting and Rigging Tackle Classes and in my “On The Stream Fly Fishing Schools”, I find that most beginning anglers are more interested in learning to cast far than they are to cast well.
Long casts are great when you need them, but for most trout anglers accuracy and delicacy in fly placement are the main goals which spell success on the stream. When I show my students my “flip cast” and my “pendulum cast”, they are astounded with the accuracy in fly placement they can achieve. The ultimate reward which thrills them is the great number of wary trout they catch in this way.
Murray’s Fly Shop
121 South Main Street
PO Box 156
Edinburg, Virginia 22824
I used to make these out of lead core trolling line in many lengths from four inches to ten feet long. I whipped a loop on both ends. Today I have settled for a four foot model. By inserting these into a regular leader with a loop-to-loop connection, you can fish streamers and nymphs to extra depths. These do not work as well nor cast as well as the Scientific Anglers Sonar Sink Tip III Fly Lines but they are an inexpensive substitute.
Many years ago when I showed Howard West, an executive with Scientific Anglers, how I made these with old fly lines. He was very excited and offered to build a hollow version and put them on the market as Scientific Anglers Indicators. Today it is my favorite indicator because it preforms many invaluable angling functions in addition to detecting strikes. Some of these include being a depth gauge when swing nymphing, tippet locator when using a back up drift streamer technique, fly-locator when fishing midges on long leaders, depth gauge when using the escape streamer technique and strike detector when using a dead drifting nymph technique. Many of you who have taken my “On the Stream Schools” will be familiar with these ways of using the Scientific Anglers Indicators.
Each month Harry Murray discusses some fly fishing questions that he is asked through emails and phone calls. This month he discusses the advantages to using a wading staff and snake bite kits, how to clean and waterproof your dry flies with Murray’s Dry Fly Floatant, and dressing your leaders. Also, how was the Mr. Rapidan Dry Fly and Murray’s Hellgrammite pattern developed?
I make this in my fly shop with special ingredients in order to achieve the three most important functions I believe we need in a dry fly floatant. This cleans, drys and waterproofs a dry fly all in one step.
Some anglers soak the dry flies they plan to use in this solution for ten minutes a day or two before they are going fishing in order to build a semi-waterproof coating on each fly.
Stop by a yard sale or garage sale and purchase a used food blender for several dollars. These are wonderful for blending your dubbing materials. Just wipe it down regularly with a Bounce Fabric Softener Sheet to hold down the static electricity.
In order to tie small delicate trout flies I hold the number of thread wraps to a minimum. The firmness of the wraps and not the number of wraps is what makes a fly durable. Also, experience has shown me our most effective small flies are tied very sparsely so I keep the number of components to a minimum. I also like to use out 8/0 thread or 6/0 thread.
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!
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.
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.