Tag Archives: flyfishing

Thermometer

Stream Thermometer
Stream Thermometer
I rely strongly on my stream thermometer to help me select proper flies to fish.
I rely strongly on my stream thermometer to help me select proper flies to fish.

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.

Murray’s Pop Strike

Wild Brook Trout Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
This wild brook trout was just released with a pop strike ad he is headed back home.

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.

Sunscreen

Bonefish Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
Sunscreen is as important when fishing for trout and smallmouth bass as it is on a bonefish trip.

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.

Keep Your Car Ready

Jeff Murray Harry Murray Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
Keeping your Jeep loaded with a variety of emergency equipment can enable fishing to be a wonderful experience in place of a disaster.

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.

Hot Spots

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.

Maps

Shenandoah National Park North District Map 9 Trout Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
Shenandoah National Park North District Map 9

 

Shenandoah National Park Central District Map 10 Trout Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
Shenandoah National Park Central District Map 10

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.

Clothing

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.

Calendar

Yellowstone National Park Murray's Fly Shop VA
My notes on our pack trip into the Bechler River in the Yellowstone National Park reminded me to do this again… soon!

On a very large yearly calendar on my kitchen wall for the past thirty years I have recorded my daily fishing information as soon as I get back home. Information which I find useful in planning future trips, which include: water temperature, water level, water clarity, hatches, where I fished that day, general success and most effective flies. On my two week fishing trip to distant locations I record where I got the best fishing, where I got the worst fishing, hatches and any unusual information which will help me plan my next trip to that area, such as take warmer clothing.
Perusing these calendars in the off-season brings back many great memories. I also find them invaluable in planning my daily trips and long trips in season.

Trip Information – Good Stream Notes

Jeff Murray Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop Virginia

Trip Information in the form of Good Stream Notes help ensure fishing success in the future.

When I return home from a fishing trip of several weeks away from my home area I record information which helps me plan future trips. Tips which help me include: the streams which provided the best fishing and which area, the streams which provides the slowest fishing, all of the best hatches and the time of the day, the best flies and the best food and lodging.

New Scientific Anglers Fly Line, Part Two

Scientific Angler Sonar Sink 30 Warm Fly Line

Part Two Blog on Scientific Anglers Sonar Sink 30 Warm Fly Line

The new Scientific Anglers Sink 30 Warm is an outstanding fast sinking head line.  The thirty foot head sinks at 4.0 to 8.0 ips (sinks four feet to fifteen feet) which has an intermediate running line.  The 200 grain line for five to seven weight rods is great for trout and smallmouth bass. The 350 grain line is excellent for eight to ten weight rods in saltwater. I find the 350 grain line ideal for my saltwater fishing at the Outer Banks. I use my Murry’s Fluorocarbon Sinking 6 foot Leader with these lines.  These lines replace the Teeny 200 and 350 grain sinking head lines.

See our next blog for more information on new Scientific Anglers Lines.

Bass Streamers

Murray's Pearl Marauder Smallmouth Bass Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
A streamer, such as the Murray’s Pearl Marauder, below the Shenandoah Blue Popper is very productive.

There are times when fishing streamers along the banks when floating smallmouth bass rivers can be very effective.  However, some anglers on our guided float trips believe they are slow in detecting these strikes. We solve this problem by attaching a Shenandoah Blue Popper size 4 to our Bright Butt 9 foot 2X Compound Knotted Leader and attach twenty four inches of 2X tippet material to the bend of the popper hook with an improved clinch knot.  I attach a Murray’s Pearl Marauder size 10 to this as a dropper. When floating the river this combination popper and dropper is cast down and across stream at a twenty degree angle so it lands close to the river bank. A slow strip-pause-strip retrieve will bring many strikes from bass along these banks. When the bass takes the popper the strike is easy to see and the bass can be quickly hooked. If he takes the streamer it will cause a quick movement of the popper which is the signal to set the hook and you hook the bass solidly.

Ostrich Plume

Ostrich Plumes Fly Tying Flies Murray's Fly Shop VA
Harry Murray holding one pound of White Ostrich Plumes.
Ostrich Plumes Fly Tying Flies Murray's Fly Shop VA
Harry Murray holding one pound of White Ostrich Plumes.

This pound of Ostrich will tie enough flies to catch many thousand fish. Ostrich Plume is used to tie streamers, Murray’s Pearl Marauder is one example. It is highly effective because it has natural minnow action in the stream.

Also, different color Ostrich Plumes are used to tie Murray’s Hellgrammites, Murray’s Strymph and Murray’s Marauder’s.

Simple Flies

Murray's Olive, Cream and Black Strymph.
The Murray’s Strymph is an outstanding fly for both smallmouth bass and trout.

Several years ago I stopped in a fly shop in Montana which was owned by a good friend. One of his employees was an excellent fly tyer and the gentleman, who had never fished for smallmouth bass but knowing I fished for them often, pulled out several beautiful, well tied flies he called smallmouth streamers for me to see. I complimented him on the great appearance of his smallmouth streamers, some of which he had skillfully incorporated more than twenty different body parts.  When we were outside in our car I turned to my son, Jeff, and said, “Those were some of the most beautiful smallmouth streamers I have ever seen, but I do not believe they will catch many fish because with all that material on them it will be next to impossible to sink them.”
Several years before this we had done extensive testing on new fly designs and found that in many cases the most sparsely tied nymphs and streamers caught the most bass and trout. I believe much of this success came from the facts that these flies sank well, were strongly suggestive of the natural nymphs and minnows I was striving to mimic and could easily be made to duplicate the swimming action of these naturals.
Some of our flies which fall into this classification are groups of flies in our Shenandoah Simple Streamer series for both bass and trout, the Mr. Rapidan Soft Hackle series  for both bass and trout, many of flies (although they are drys) in my “Change of Pace” trout series, the Murray’s Marauders, the Murray’s Floating Minnows and the Murray’s Strymphs.
The outstanding book, Simple Flies by Morgan Lyle shows how to tie and fish fifty two flies for trout, bass and in saltwater. If you are considering tying some new flies for your personal use I believe using the simple approach I have used in many of my flies and those Morgan Lyle discusses in his great book will help you catch many fish.

Where are the Natural Nymphs?

Harry Murray relies strongly on his Murray's Nymph Leader with its Scientific Anglers Indicators to catch trout on nymphs in the spring.
Harry Murray relies strongly on his Murray’s Nymph Leader with its Scientific Anglers Indicators to catch trout on nymphs in the spring.

Many natural nymphs move to the downstream side of the cobblestones in the lower sections of the riffles at this time of the season in preparation of hatching over the next several weeks. Any nymphs dislodged here are swept into the pool downstream where they are easy prey for the trout. A very effective tactic is to fish a nymph such as the Mr. Rapidan Dry size 14 upstream dead drift right below these riffles and into the runs on each side of the riffles. The Murray’s Nymph Leader with its built in Scientific Anglers Indicators is a great help in detecting these strikes.

Poly Yarn

Poly Yarn Fly Tying Murray's Fly Shop VA
Poly Yarn

This is the second in my series on winging material. For those just starting to tie dry flies many find poly yarn the easiest of all materials to use. Actually, this is easy to understand because it is easy to handle, comes in many colors, floats well and does not absorb water. Personally I seldom use it because I feel delicate dry flies tied with poly yarn wings lack the aesthetic appeal of those tied with feathers.

Selective Trout

If a trout rises to take your fly but refuses it, give him a few minutes to get back on his feeding station before you cast to him again.
If a trout rises to take your fly but refuses it, give him a few minutes to get back on his feeding station before you cast to him again.

A large trout comes up and looks at your dry fly but refuses it. There is a natural tendency to cast back to him right away to try him again. A ploy which works best for me is to hold my cast for five minutes until I am sure he is back on his feeding station before casting to him again. If he refuses the second drift I got to a smaller fly that creates an entirely different light pattern and this usually takes him.

Wood Duck Flank

Lemon Woodduck Plumage Fly Tying Murray's Fly Shop Virginia
Lemon Woodduck Plumage

This is part one of three parts on dry fly winging material.  The woodduck flank feathers you see here are one of my favorite materials for tying delicate dry fly wing. They are easy to use and many of the students in my fly tying classes use these to tie great drys on their first attempt. I have friends who use these on the Quill Gordon Dry Fly, March Brown Dry Fly, Light Cahill Dry Fly and many other patterns.

Smallmouth Bass Feed Heavily on Brown Drake Mayflies

Smallmouth Bass Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop Virginia
Bill Burslem hooks a large smallmouth that was feeding heavily on Brown Drake Mayflies.

Some of the most exciting smallmouth fly fishing takes place when they feed on natural Brown Drake mayflies. There are actually three different species that fall into the group which smallmouth anglers call Brown Drakes but since they act much alike in the stream and the fish feed the same way upon them we fish them all the same ways.
When the duns come off in the afternoon fish to the rising bass one on one with a Irresistible Dry Fly size 12 or fish beside the boulders in the riffles if there are no rising bass.
When the spinners fall at dusk use the same fly and fish these bass one on one by casting three feet ahead of a cruiser or by casting it quickly right at the riseform.

Switch Lines in Mid-River

Switch Fly Fishing Lines while standing mid-river. Murray's Fly Shop Fly Fishing Tips
There are often times when one wants to switch from a floating to a sinking tip fly line and it is not necessary to wade to shore to achieve this.
Smallmouth Bass Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop - North Fork Shenandoah Smallmouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass caught on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River

You are standing in mid-river using a 9 foot rod and you decide you would like to switch from a floating fly line to a sinking tip fly line.  You can easily remove the reel spool with the floating line from the reel and insert the reel spool with the sinking tip line. Now pull fifteen feet of line with the leader attached from the reel. Take the fly rod apart at the ferrule in the middle of the rod and place the tip section of the rod under your arm. Thread the leader and line through both sections of the rod then put the tip section back on the butt section at the ferrule and you are ready to fish. This works fine with two piece and four piece rods.

Calf Tail

Calf (Kip) Tail
Calf (Kip) Tail

Calf (Kip) Tail is a very useful material with many applications in tying dry flies, streamers and bass bugs. The yellow calf tail I show here is what I use to tie the wings of the Mr. Rapidan Dry Fly series.  The space between the two pencil-pointers gives us the hair which is easiest to make nice even dry fly wings. I hold these hair fibers by the tips and brush out the short, useless hair and the fuzz with an old tooth brush. Usually these hair fibers are even enough to tie in as they  are producing nice straight wings. If you like you can straighten these hair fibers in a hair evener, but I seldom find this necessary.  The long hair fibers on the tip of the tail make excellent streamers, bass bug tails and even sometimes wings for Trude dry flies. These come in many dyed colors and are inexpensive. The more you experiment with these in your fly tying , the more great uses you will find for them.

Dry Fly Cleaning

Dry flies that have become mashed or dirty can be brought back to excellent condition by steaming them very carefully over a hot tea kettle with long forceps... very , very carefully.
Dry flies that have become mashed or dirty can be brought back to excellent condition by steaming them very carefully over a hot teakettle with long forceps… very , very carefully.
Ice
Ice

Dry flies that are coated with old floatant that have matted hackles can easily be brought back to life by carefully steaming them over the stream of a teakettle spout. Be very careful when doing this because you can get a bad burn from this hot steam. I use very long tweezers or a tea strainer but I am still very careful.  Set your revived flies aside, well spaced out for two days, then you can return them to your fly boxes.

Murray’s Magnum Creek Chub

Murray's Magnum Creek Chub Fly Tying Kit.
Murray’s Magnum Creek Chub Fly Tying Kit
Murray's Magnum Creek Chub Streamer
Murray’s Magnum Creek Chub Streamer

There are probably more creek chub minnows in most smallmouth rivers than any other single minnows.  These are readily available to the bass from March until November and they feed very heavily upon them. A very effective technique is to fish the Murray’s Magnum Creek Chub Streamer size 4 across stream below the riffles, in the deep pools and in the tails of the pools. After the stream sinks deeply, strip it six inches every twenty seconds to swim it slowly across the stream bottom.
I use a floating line for this fishing unless the river is over four feet deep or the current is very fast; in which case I use aScientific Anglers Sonar Sink Tip III Sinking Tip Fly Linewith a Murray’s Sinking 6 foot 2X Fluorocarbon Leader.
In 2016 we started a new item,  Murray’s Magnum Creek Chub Fly Tying Kit. This kit contains a photo of the Murray’s Magnum Creek Chub Streamer, the complete tying instructions, and enough materials and hooks to tie 24 of these flies. This fly tying kit is $35.95.

Find the Good Water

Mountain Trout Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains
Mountain Trout Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
I have often gotten excellent fishing on the mountain streams in the Rockies by hoking into the remote headwaters.

Late last summer I drove a long distance to fish a mountain trout stream.  When I arrived at the lower end of the stream, I was surprised to find it was very discolored as a result of recent rains. Checking my topographic maps I noticed that two substantial feeder streams entered my stream just a mile upstream. By hiking up the trail beside the main stream until I got upstream of the two feeder streams, I found clear water and had outstanding fishing.
On a different trip to a different stream the high stream level forced me to hike several miles upstream to where a nice little feeder brook entered the main stream. I had never fished this little feeder brook before, but that day I had one of the finest days of dry fly fishing I have ever experienced.  Often you are rewarded with outstanding fishing after a short hike.

Murray’s Magnum Hog Sucker Streamer Fly Tying Kit

Murray's Magnum Hog Sucker Streamer
Murray’s Magnum Hog Sucker Streamer
Murray's Tie a Fly Kit (Just add a vise), Murray's Magnum Hog Sucker Streamer.
Murray’s Tie a Fly Kit (Just add a vise), Murray’s Magnum Hog Sucker Streamer.

In the forties and fifties, smallmouth bait fishermen on the Shenandoah River who were after the largest bass used live Hog Suckers for their bait. Then several years ago when a huge smallmouth bass chased a real hog sucker onto a shallow gravel bar to capture it just twenty feet from where I was wading, I decided to develop a Magnum Hog Suck Streamer to catch these big bass.
This new fly is effective from April until November.  Fish it with a slow line hand stripping over the edges of all gravel bars along the banks and the downstream ends of the islands.
In 2016 we started a new item, Murray’s Magnum Hog Sucker Fly Tying Kit. This kit contains a photo of the Murray’s Magnum Hog Sucker, the complete tying instructions, and enough materials and hooks to tie 24 of these flies. This fly tying kit is $35.95.

Murray’s Czech Nymph Leader

Murray's Czech High Sticking Nymph Leader with Ring.
Murray’s Czech High Sticking Nymph Leader with Ring.
Tippet Rings
Tippet Rings

The NEW Murray’s Two Color Czech Nymphing Leaders are very popular for the way they help detect strikes. These come in 7 foot, 9 foot and 10 foot with a tippet ring attached. All you have to do is add your tippet.  You can also purchase just the tippet rings and Amnesia Leader Material and build your own leader if you desire.

Drag Free Drift

Trout Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
The large brown trout in the Yellowstone River will often refuse a dragging dry fly so I always dress my whole leader often with a dry fly cream floatant when I am fishing dry flies.

The speed of the current just inches below the stream surface is usually moving faster than the current on the surface where our dry flies drift. When the leader tippet is pulled by this fast current it can produce a subtle drag on the fly which may be difficult for us to discern, however, the trout quickly detect this and may refuse to take our fly. In order to prevent this drag I always dress my dry fly leaders frequently with dry fly cream floatant. This keeps the leader on the surface where it drifts at the same rate as the fly. This produces a natural drifting dry fly and the trout take it quickly.

Cold Hands?

Simms Freestone Half Finger Fishing Gloves Murray's Fly Shop VA
Simms Freestone Half Finger Fishing Gloves

During the winter and spring I always carry Simms Freestone Half Finger Fishing Gloves in my vest. Experience has shown me that if I put these on before I start fishing I have excellent control of tying my flies onto the leader and carefully releasing the fish. These gloves come in size Medium, Large and X-Large.

Hot Spots

Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop Virginia
This is the hot spot on Soda Butte in the Yellowstone National Park that always held a very large cutthroat trout.

I always mentally mark a spot where I have caught or moved some large fish…any kind fish. This was the spot on the Madison River just below the park line that always held a large brown trout. It was also the spot across from Horse Brook Run on the Beaverkill that gave me a large brown every time I fished it. The shaded pool just below the feeder spring on the mountain brook trout stream in the Blue Ridge Mountains almost always held the largest trout in the stream.  The deep cut on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River just upstream of the big island below Edinburg was always my most dependable feeding station to catch a large smallmouth.  On the Outer Banks the sound 26 power poles North of Buxton was one of the my most dependable area for fast action. Many of these hot spots have been very dependable feedings stations year after year and have constantly given my great fishing.

Releasing Trout

Releasing a trout properly will assure he will be there to challenge you again in the future.
Releasing a trout properly will assure he will be there to challenge you again in the future.

Always land your trout with a net as quickly as possible to prevent stressing them. Revive your trout completely before releasing him. Choose water from one to two feet deep with a moderate current. I gently face the trout into the current, holding him upright tightly with my right hand around his tail and with my left hand under his head to balance him. I hold the trout in this position until I am sure he can hold this upright posture on his own.  This is easy for me to discern as I slowly open the grip with my right hand, if he leans to the side I tighten my grip and hold him another two to three minutes until he can keep his balance. At this point I slowly remove my right hand and then my left hand and I know this trout will survive.  Make all of your movement slowly because otherwise you will frighten the trout and he will lunge unto deep water where you can’t get him. Often a lunger will wobble on downstream and will turn bell-up and die.

Popper Casting

Popper Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
Picking a bug up quietly off the river can assure a nice fish on the next cast.

When we make a back cast to pick a popping bug up off the stream to make another cast we may cause that popper to make a loud splashing noise that will scare many close by bass, this robbing us of a chance to catch a bass on our next presentation.
A tactic that can prevent this racket on the pick up is to point the fly rod straight at the popper when you are ready to make your back cast and use your line hand to strip in several feet of line that causes the popper to slide gently across the surface of the river. Now, make your back cast and the popper will jump quietly into the air and you will catch the next bass.

Be Nice To Your Fly Rod

Jeff Murray Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop Virginia
Many of my Scott Fly Rods that I use often are over 30 years old and they cast as well as the day I bought them because I take care of them.

A friend recently purchased a new fly rod and broke it while casting the first day out. When I asked him if he had put ferrule dressing on it before fishing, he looked at me with a questioning expression and asked “No, what is that?”
I always apply a light coat of Murray’s Ferrule Dressing on each ferrule on a new fly rod and every six months there after. This helps assure a smooth non slipping ferrule joint and can prolong the life of the ferrule.

Line Hand Strike

Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop Virginia
When fishing streamers on long casts in large western rivers, a line-hand strike is a great help in hooking the trout.

The more I fish, the more I find that I rely strongly on my line-hand strike to set the hook on the fishes strike. Here are a few examples: (1) On small streams with low-hanging tree limbs this keeps me from snapping the rod tip into the limbs which can break the rod.  (2) When fishing small flies on 7X and 8X tippets my slip strike with my line-hand followed by quickly releasing the line when I feel the hook penetrate the trout’s jaw prevents breaking the trout off on the strike. (3) When making long casts on large rivers my line hand strike in conjunction with a firm  rod strike helps telegraph the strike through the long line and hook the fish. (4) When fishing deeply sunken head in fresh and salt water my line hand strike in conjunction with a strong rod strike helps hook these deep fish.

Length of Casts

Casts Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA - Big Spring Creek - Circa 1976
On Big Spring Creek, Harry Murray finds that it is often more productive to sneak in on the trout than make real long casts. (Photo Circa 1978)

Experienced anglers know it is best to never cast further than is necessary to keep from scaring the fish when in freshwater. Excessively long casts can result in a loss of accuracy, loss of drag control, inconsistency in strike detection and missed strikes. In low, clear flat sections of the streams we are often compelled to punch out long casts, however, judge this by the stream conditions.

Drag Free Dry Fly Drift

Vince Marinaro Trout Fly FIshing Murray's Fly Shop VA
Vince Marinaro became a very special friend and taught me a great deal about trout fishing.

I have been doing a great amount of experimenting this year with many different casts that are helpful in throwing slack line casts which are very helpful in achieving drag-free drifts with dry flies. These include the curve cast, reach cast, bounce cast and lazy-s cast, just to name a few casts. Vince Marinaro’s puddle casts and several variation were by far the most helpful in getting drag-free dry fly drifts.
One day as Vince and I fished the Letort, I asked him to show me how he was able to get long natural drifts with his “puddle cast”.  He made a gentle cast up the Letort and I was amazed at the long natural drift he achieved.
Here is how I use Vince’s puddle cast: On my presentation cast I extend extra line on the forward part of the cast and stop the rod tip at a forty five degree angle over the stream. This allows the line and leader to fall in a puddle of slack line and the fly drift naturally.
I encourage you to read Vince Marinaro’s, Modern Dry Fly Code, written in 1950. It is a masterpiece!

 

Quick Water

Quick Water Smallmouth Bass Murray's Fly Shop VA
When the high water drops back to where you can see your feet in knee deep water, the fishing is often outstanding.

Heavy rains that last less than a day but deposit two or three inches of rain definitely cause our rivers to become too muddy to fish. However, I call this “quick water” because the rivers come up quickly but then they drop back quickly.  The smallmouth fishing can be outstanding when the rivers drop back to where you can see your feet when you are standing in knee deep water. Under these conditions the bass are not as wary as they are in clear water. I have often fished sections of rivers when they are still carrying some extra color and had outstanding success, where a week before in clear water the action was very slow. Good flies in this falling water are the Murray’s Black Madtom Sculpin Streamer size 4 and Murray’s Magnum Hog Sucker Streamer size 4.

Riffle Hitch

Riffle Hitch Smallmouth Bass Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
This type water produces many bass for Harry Murray by using the new Bass Skater Streamers with a riffle hitch.

Last year at my son’s encouragement, we started experimenting with the “Riffle Hitch” technique for smallmouth bass which I used many years ago and some special flies for this method. Not only is this an exciting method but it is often productive when standard techniques bring few strikes.
The “Riffle Hitch” is easy to tie by simply tying two half hitch knots behind the hook eye on the head of the fly. This knot enables us to swim the fly across the current in an erratic motion that mimics the action of a dying struggling minnow. To give us patterns that match many of our minnows we have designed the Bass Skater Shad Streamer, Bass Skater Flash Streamer and Bass Skater Gold Streamer all in size 6. A great tactic is to fish these down and across stream at a twenty degree angle stripping them six inches every ten seconds. Hot spots are the shaded banks, below the riffles and in the tails of the pools. Watch our video in order to see how to tie the Riffle Hitch, vimeo.com/115660393

Healthy Trout

Trout Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop Virginia
By quickly landing large trout and gently releasing them once they are stable assures their survival.

Many beginning trout anglers are amazed to see a nice trout turn belly-up and die when they return him to the stream with good intentions for his survival. It is very easy to stress a large trout by fishing him an excessively long time. Therefore it is wise to land large trout quickly. To do this: (1) Get downstream of hooked trout so he must fight the current as well as the rod pressure when he runs upstream, (2) Apply the maximum rod pressure which the tippet will take, (3) Use a large landing net and lead the trout gently into it and (4) Be sure he is stabilized and that he can maintain his proper posture before releasing him gently facing  into the current in knee deep water.

Cooling Bass Rivers

Smallmouth Bass Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
Many large bass move into the deep cuts now and hit streamers stripped along the streambottom.

The smallmouth rivers are cooling and although I am catching nice bass throughout the rivers, I am aware that some of the largest bass are moving into the deep pools. I carry both a floating line and a 200 grain fast sinking head line and use the one which helps me fish my flies deeply. Swimming them deeply and slowly is the best way to catch these large bass. Dependable flies now are the Murray’s Black Madtom Sculpin Streamer size 4, Murray’s Magnum Hog Sucker Streamer size 4 and Murray’s Magnum Creek Chub Streamer size 4. These bass often strike these streamers very gently so if you feel the slightest bump set the hook quickly with both your line hand and the rod.

Escape Technique

The "Escape Technique" is a winner at this time of the year.
The “Escape Technique” is a winner at this time of the year.

I had outstanding smallmouth bass fishing on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River with a method of streamer fishing I am calling, “Escape Technique”.  Many of the bass are feeding heavily now on natural minnows.
This technique is easy to master and it is extremely effective. I suspect because we make our streamer act like a minnow attempting to evade the bass. Using a fly such as Shenk’s White Streamer size 6 or Murray’s Olive Marauder size 6 cast in toward the bank. After the streamer sinks deeply, strip it out ten feet with a slow strip-pause-strip action. At this point use a slow roll cast pick up motion which brings the streamer up close to the surface of the river but do not pick it up. With the streamer within inches of the surface impart several upstream and downstream slow line mends to make it look like a minnow fleeing to escape a bass which is after it. I am doing best with this method where the current is slow to medium and the water is three to four feet deep. Deadly!

Bass Rod

Jeff Murray and Harry Murray rely on 7 weight rods for our smallmouth bass fishing. The new Scott 9 foot 7 weight 4 piece Radian is our favorite.
Jeff Murray and Harry Murray rely on 7 weight rods for our smallmouth bass fishing. The new Scott 9 foot 7 weight 4 piece Radian is our favorite.

Sure you can land a nice size smallmouth bass on your five weight rod.  However, you are limiting the size of the flies you can cast. I believe a number five line is much too light to cast a size four smallmouth fly smoothly: it becomes work rather than pleasure. I prefer a seven weight 9 foot rod for my smallmouth bass fishing. With this I can easily cast size four flies comfortably and accurately while having the smooth feel to cast the smallest flies.
I especially like the new Scott Radian 9 foot 7 weight 4 piece for its ease in casting and for making long cast when needed. The wonderful damping action of the Radian rods make them the most pleasant rods I have ever used.
The new Scientific Anglers Sharkwave Siege lines are the finest line I have ever used. The ease with which I can pick the bugs up off the stream and the extra distance I can shoot my flies is astounding.

Tying a Deer Hair Bass Bug

In my fly tying classes I teach how to tie flies for both trout and bass. These include dry flies, nymphs, streamers and deer hair bass bugs.
In my fly tying classes I teach how to tie flies for both trout and bass. These include dry flies, nymphs, streamers and deer hair bass bugs.

When I teach my winter fly tying classes, the beginning fly tyers are amazed how quickly they learn to tie great deer hair bass bugs. I teach this with two simple rules, (1) Be sure to clean out all of the short hair and fuzz from each pinch of deer hair before you tie it on and (2) Keep a bare hook shank ahead of each pinch of deer hair you tie on.

This two hour class will teach you how to tie drys, nymphs,  streamers and deer hair bass bugs.  We do not supply the materials, you can purchase a fly tying kit from us or watch!

Fly Tying Classes for 2015-2016
November 21, 2015                         10:00 am- 12:00 pm
January 23, 2016                               10:00 am- 12:00 pm
February 27, 2016                             10:00 am- 12:00 pm

Wading Staff

I rely on my Folstaff Wading Staff on all streams, large and small.
I rely on my Folstaff Wading Staff on all streams, large and small.

Wading safely is an important part of fly fishing. I use a Folstaff Wading Staff (3/4″ X 50″) in all of my  fly fishing in freshwater, even on small mountain streams. If you fall when wading a smallmouth stream in waist deep water you get wet. If you fall when wading a mountain trout stream in foot-deep water you break bones. I keep mine in its holster on a belt on my right hip so if I slip I can quickly grab it for help. When wading in fast water I am careful to plant it securely on the stream bottom before picking up my feet.
When the smallmouth rivers are full early in the season and any time they become slightly discolored I use my Folstaff Wading Staff to prob the stream bottom ahead of me. I am trying to avoid steep down-sloping ledges and water which is too deep to wade.

Night Smallmouth Bass Fishing

Smallmouth Bass Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
Fishing for smallmouth bass at night may help you catch the largest bass of the year.

You just might catch your largest smallmouth bass of the year by fishing at night. They feed heavily in the low light levels and they are less wary than they are in the bright time of the day.
For safety and to get good fishing, I fish sections of the river at night that I know well and plan the spots I will enter and especially leave the river to avoid old fences and poison ivy.  A small waterproof flashlight is a must.
Strike detection is dependent upon us feeling it so fishing down and across stream at a 45 degree angle is a great help. This angle enables us to instantly feel the strike and we can quickly hook the bass. A good ploy is to quickly recover all of the slack line and put the bass on the reel so you are in complete control of the runs of a big fish.
Good flies are the Murray’s Black Madtom Sculpin Streamer size 4, Murray’s Magnum Bluegill size 4 and Murray’s Chartreuse Chugger size 4. Impart a firm six inch stripping action to these flies every ten seconds to get the basses attention.

Change of Pace Flies

The Murray's Housefly was the first pattern in my "change of pace" flies, all of which show the trout a new light pattern and a food they feed on late in the season.
The Murray’s Housefly was the first pattern in my “change of pace” flies, all of which show the trout a new light pattern and a food they feed on late in the season.

Large trout in heavily fished streams become very tough to catch this time of year. I believe part of the reason for this is that they have seen so many regular flies that they have become too wise to take them. Plus in many cases these flies do not match the natural foods the trout feed upon.
With this in mind I have developed a series of flies I call my “change of pace flies“. My goal was twofold. First I wanted to tie dry flies which produced different light patterns and silhouettes on the surface than the flies the trout usually see, and second I wanted to produce the natural foods the trout feed upon at this time of the year. This started with the Murray’s Housefly which is extremely productive in Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont and Virginia.
After many hours of study along the stream banks and a great deal of experimenting at my fly tying vise I came up with a number of very effective drys. These include the Murray’s Yellow Jacket Dry, Murray’s Horsefly, Murray’s Oakworm Dry, Murray’s Wasp Dry, and Murray’s Moth Dry, all of which we sell in our fly shop.

Wary Smallmouth Bass

As the smallmouth rivers get low and clear I find that I can prevent scaring the largest bass by wading upstream and fishing upstream ahead of me. An effective technique with streamers such as the Murray’s Magnum Hog Sucker Streamer is to fan the casts across the pool ahead of you and strip it back just slightly faster than the current so you can feel the strike.  With nymphs such as the Murray’s Skunk Road Kill Nymph I use a slow rod lifting bounce retrieve to swim it along the streambottom. This gives me a tight line to the nymph so I can feel the strike.  The Shenandoah Chugger is a great hard head surface bug to fish upstream because you can fish it gently back downstream or strip it loudly to bring the up from the deep cuts. One of the students in my smallmouth school caught over thirty nice smallmouths in one large pool using this last tactic.

Easy Trout

Fishing Trico is one my favroite alongling games. On Armstrong at Livingston, Montana I had three dozen trout rising within casting distance.
Fishing Trico is one my favorite angling games. On Armstrong at Livingston, Montana I had three dozen trout rising within casting distance.

Now that the Trico hatch is in full swing on our trout streams you can rest assured that these trout probably have examined more artificial flies than most anglers. The trout know this hatch well and want to feed on the naturals as an exceptionally tough brown trout showed me one morning on a small Pennsylvania stream when he took 67 naturals in a measured 60 seconds.
Here are some of the ploys I use on this hatch that help me.
(1) I always get to the stream well before the time of the day when I know the hatch is due to start and stay well after it is over. Often the trout are easier to fool when the naturals are sparse.
(2) In order to get a drag-free drift over a steady riser I usually use a “puddle cast” which creates extra slack in the leader.
(3) Although I normally fish 7X leaders on this hatch i find that 8X leaders often renders a more natural fly drift.

Stream Approach

On the Stream Schools Fly FIshing Murray's Fly Shop VA
In our schools we strive to teach the students how to approach and fish the different types of water in order to make the best use of their time on the stream.

The most valuable angling skill you can master is learning how to approach the specific piece of water you plan to fish. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Actually it is; all that is required is some thought about the water before you. Simply stated, the fish select feeding stations that will give them the greatest amount of food while exerting the least amount of energy. However, as we have found in our “on the stream” trout schools and smallmouth bass schools this basic skill is often neglected. In some cases the angler first wades into the stream and then asks, “Where do I fish?”
Mastering this basic skills has given many large trout on the Yellowstone River, helped me find the easy trout on the Beaverkill, catch large browns on Big Spring Creek that many anglers overlook. This approach also helps me catch nice smallmouths on the North Fork of the Shenandoah river practically within sight of my fly shop in Edinburg, Virginia.

Keep Dry

Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
A good raincoat is a must for a serious angler.

During the summer I do not use waders when floating or wading smallmouth rivers. However I always carry a raincoat in the back of my vest. If a heavy rain settles in all day and you become soaked for several hours you can get the chills. For example, recently five of us were floating seven miles on a smallmouth river in personal kick boats. Shortly into our float a heavy rain settled in on us. Only three of us has raincoats so for the next four hours the two who had no raincoats suffered badly.  Although the rest of us offered to share ours they would not take them. After this we made sure everyone had raincoats.

Streamer Success

Jeff Murray hooks a high percentage of his streamer strikes by following the sweep of his streamer with the rod tip and setting the hook with his line hand as well as the fly rod.
Jeff Murray hooks a high percentage of his streamer strikes by following the sweep of his streamer with the rod tip and setting the hook with his line hand as well as the fly rod.

Here are two simple steps that can easily double the number of successfully hooked fish on your streamer fishing. (1) Always follow the sweep of your streamer with your fly rod so the rod tip is pointed in the same upstream-downstream plan where the line leaves the river. This enables you to quickly feel the strike. (2) The instant you feel the strikes set the hook quickly with a quick line hand strike and a firm rod lifting motion.

The Best Action with Surface Bugs

Surface Bug Bass Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
The best smallmouth bass surface bug action comes from fishing the pattern that gives the action needed.

In order to catch large bass consistently on hard surface bugs it is very important to be able to adjust the bug action to the type of water we are fishing. I have designed the Shenandoah Surface Bugs with this goal in mind.  (1) For example, we often find bass feeding in water two feet deep along the shaded banks and a gentle teasing bug-action is very effective. The Shenandoah Slider with its long slim pointed nose is very productive here.  (2) Four feet deep banks with fast currents produce large bass to a bug that can create a loud water-throwing action. The Shenandoah Chugger with its fat body and deeply cut face quickly brings these bass to the surface with a firm stripping action.  (3) Grass beds and gentle current areas hold many bass that will take bug-action between these two extremes. The Shenandoah Popper with its long tapered body and up-sloping face will take many of these bass.