Tag Archives: learn to fly fish

On The Stream Fly Fishing Schools

Smallmouth Bass Fly Fishing Schools
We have taught many students how to fly fish for smallmouth bass in our on the stream schools.

This month we are starting our on the stream smallmouth bass schools on various dates throughout the summer.  For 55 years we have been teaching these schools and feel they are the most informative schools around.  Each day begins at 9a.m. with a classroom presentation at our fly shop in Edinburg, VA  then you will proceed to the Shenandoah River for the “on the stream” instruction.

We customize these fly fishing schools to meet your specific needs.  These schools provide you with the most comprehensive experience by preparing you to fish smallmouth bass rivers and large trout streams. You will learn or brush up on casting, fly fishing equipment selection, knot tying, reading the water, entomology and all aspects of fishing for smallmouth bass.

We keep our class sizes small so each student has plenty of time with the instructor.  1 instructor per 5 to 6 students.  Don’t have a fly rod?  No worries–we supply the fly rod and reel outfits for the day.  Are you a total beginner?  No problem,  that is what we are here for.  Have you been fly fishing before but just need a little extra help?   We can help no matter your level of experience.

So, come by yourself, bring a friend, relative or that special someone and enjoy a day learning to fly fish.

2017 Dates

June 2, 8, 10, 12, 17, 26, 30
June 23 (Advanced Class)
July 8, 22, 28
August 5, 18, 26

$196 per student for the day

So check your schedule and register today!
You can register online or phone 540-984-4212

Virginia Fly Fishing Podcast–March 2017

Fly Fishing Podcast Trout Fishing
The Epeorus pleuralis mayfly nymphs are very active in the mountain trout streams in March and fishing a Mr. Rapidan Bead Head Nymph size 14 on a Murray’s 9ft 5X Trout Nymph Leader with its special indicator system is very effective.

Virginia Fly Fishing Podcast by Harry Murray for March Trout and Smallmouth Bass Fishing

In this fly fishing podcast, Harry Murray discusses the Epeorus pleuralis mayfly hatch which occurs in March on the trout streams around the mid-Atlantic.  He will also discuss the best feeding stations in the pools, the most effective flies and the best tactics and leaders to use.
Flies: Mr. Rapidan Parachute Dry size 14, Blue Quill Dry size 16, and Mr. Rapidan Bead Head Nymph size 14

Fly Fishing Podcast for Smallmouth Bass
March is a great time to catch large bass that feed heavily on minnows in the back eddies.

Are you eager to get out on the river and fish for smallmouth bass?  The second portion of this fly fishing podcast, Harry discusses the specific locations in the rivers where you can catch bass at this time of the year.  He also discusses the most effective fly lines, leaders, and the most productive tactics to help you start off your bass fishing season.
Smallmouth Bass Flies: Murray’s Magnum Creek Chub size 4, Murray’s Magnum Darter size 4, Murray’s Magnum Hog Sucker size 4

Interested in learning about the smallmouth bass fishing?  Be sure to attend Harry Murray’s Fly Fishing Workshop on the Shenandoah River.  March 18 from 10a.m. to noon at Murray’s Fly Shop in Edinburg.

September Fly Fishing Podcast

Trout Fishing September
In September we get excellent trout fishing during the caddis hatch by fishing the Mr. Rapidan Delta Wing Caddis, Tan size 16 with a Murray’s Tan Caddis Pupa size 14 as a dropper below it.

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.

Bass Flies:  Bass Skater Shad Streamer #6, Bass Skater Flash Streamer #6, Bass Skater Gold Streamer #6, Shenandoah Blue Popper #4 & #6, Shenandoah Chartreuse Chugger #4 & #6

September Bass Fly Fishing
The clients in our smallmouth bass guide trips quickly master the technique of fishing the riffle cast and catch many large bass with this tactic.

Fly Fishing Workshops on trout fishing, bass fishing, fly casting, fly tying, and more from Murray’s Fly Shop.

Fly Fishing Podcast August 2016

Fly Fishing on Spring Creeks
From now until fall many large trout feed heavily on natural grasshoppers. I do extremely well on the Firehole, Henry’s Fork and Big Spring.

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.

The Murray’s Crayfish has been a very productive fly in our smallmouth bass schools.  Next School…August 12.  Sign up today!

Fly Fishing for Smallmouth Bass
Many students in our smallmouth schools catch some of their largest bass in the tails of the pools on the Murray’s Floating Minnows

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.

Take a Youngster Fishing

Jeff Murray Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
When Jeff Murray was younger, he loved going fly fishing with his father, Harry Murray. Kids love to catch fish!

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.

Twisted Line

Jeff Murray Smallmouth Bass Trout Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
A good straight fly line cast better and handles better than a twisted fly line.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Stream Terms

Wading and fishing streamers downstream is an excellent smallmouth tactic.
Wading and fishing streamers downstream is an excellent smallmouth tactic.
(A) Upper section of riffle, (B) Lower section of riffle, (C) Back Eddy, (D) Grass Bed, (E) Gravel Bar, (F) Deep part of pool and (G) Downfall
(A) Upper section of riffle, (B) Lower section of riffle, (C) Back Eddy, (D) Grass Bed, (E) Gravel Bar, (F) Deep part of pool and (G) Downfall

Anglers just getting into fly fishing are often confused by some of the terms we use to describe the stream and currents. Here are some of my explanations that will help you.

  • Upstream: Going against the direction the stream is flowing
  • Head of the pool: The extreme upstream section of a pool
  • Tail of the pool: The extreme downstream section of a pool
  • Pool in a stream: The portion of a stream which lies between the head and the tail of the pool
  • Back Eddy: A Lazy Susan, usually on the slow side of a stream, where the current turns to run upstream, usually along the bank
  • Riffle: The rapid flowing section of the stream between the tail of the pool above and the head of the pool below
  • Corner of a small mountain trout stream: Tiny Lazy Susan on the side of some pools just below the riffle
  • Grass Bed: Aquatic vegetation growing within the stream
  • Gravel Bar: Pea to marble size stone bottom, usually occurring adjacent from stream bank
  • Downfall: Trees laying within the stream bed

 

 

 

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.

Dying Fly Tying Materials

Fly Tying Murray's Fly Shop Virginia
By dying the dubbing I wanted for Pale Morning Dun hatch on the western spring creeks, I was able to catch many selective trout that would not take regular patterns.

When I can’t locate the exact color of natural dubbing fur I need to tie  a specific pattern, I dye some of the fur I have and experiment. I have gotten excellent results with liquid Rit Dye by following the directions on the bottle. Normally I mix the dye with a 1/2 cup of clear vinegar in a quart pan of water and heat this on a hot plate until it is well mixed. I then add my natural dubbing fur. It is best to shear the natural furs from the skin before putting them in the dying pan because the natural oils in the skin can interfere with uniform dying.

Blend Your Dubbing

Mr. Rapidan Dry Fly Murray's Fly Shop Virginia - Blending dubbing
In the old days I had to dye and blend the dubbing for my Mr. Rapidan Dry Fly. Today fly rite number 34 is perfect.

Fly Tying Tip: Need dubbing material for fly tying? Blend your own custom colored dubbing to meet your fly tying needs.

I am a great believer in blending my dubbing materials for dry flies and nymphs. For example, when I first developed the Mr. Rapidan Dry Fly, about thirty years ago, I wanted it to have a body color which matched that of the Epeorus pleuralis adult mayfly. There was no dubbing material, either synthetic or natural fur, which matched this insect so I had to blend my own dubbing to get the mottled tannish-yellowish-olive body of the real mayfly. After much blending with various colors I camp up with the perfect mixture.
You can easily blend natural furs and fine diameter synthetics in order to get the exact color you desire. I especially like Australian Opossum, Mink, Beaver, Muskrat, Hare’s Ear and very fine synthetics. If you are tying nymphs leave some of the guard hairs in the natural furs, if your fly tying calls for dry flies remove most of the guard hairs. If I am tying only a few flies I will often blend the materials with two fine tooth combs. If I am tying a large number of flies I use a food blender or coffee grinder to mix the furs after wiping it down well with a fabric softener sheet to lessen static buildup.  Next week I cover dying fly tying materials.

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

Fly Fishing Workshop Podcast

Fly Fishing Workshops

Learn to Fly Fish with our Fly Fishing Workshop–This November we will be starting our fly fishing workshops on Saturdays in the fly shop from 10a.m. to noon.  I will be covering various topics throughout the winter into the spring including  fly casting, fly tying, trout fishing in the Shenandoah National Park, smallmouth bass fishing in the Shenandoah River and NEW this year Selecting the Proper Fly Rod Outfits.

For more information or to register for a fly fishing workshop …click here   or call 540-984-4212

Fly Casting Workshop

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.

Delicate Presentation

The Scott Radian Fly Rod helps me greatly in casting small flies into the wind.
The Scott Radian Fly Rod helps me greatly in casting small flies into the wind.

When fishing 7X leaders with small flies  a delicate presentation is difficult when the wind is blowing straight into your face.
One option is to relocate so the wind is at a different angle. A second option is to use a low side arm cast to cast under the wind. A third option is cast a low tight loop on your presentation cast with extra power on your delivery. The only problem with this last tactic is that I have seen many excellent anglers slam the fly onto the surface of the stream. This will scare the trout and often puts them down.
I have never seen this slamming of the fly occur with the new Scott Radian Rods.  I assume the wonder damping action of the Radian Rods is responsible for this.  I do know that casting into many powerful head winds in Montana last fall I had no problems with delicate presentations.

Save a Fly Rod

A good fly rod does a great job in fighting a fish like this, but they are not built to jerk solidly hooked flies out of trees.
A good fly rod does a great job in fighting a fish like this, but they are not built to jerk solidly hooked flies out of trees.

When a fly gets caught in a tree over the stream which is out of reach the proper way to attempt to free it is to point the rod straight at the fly and pull the line gently with the line hand. If the fly has now wrapped the leader around the limb it will probably pull free and you have saved the fly. If it has wrapped you will break it off but the rod will not be damaged. Never jerk back with the rod like you are setting the hook on a fish. A friend just did this with one of my favorite Scott fly rods and broke the rod. It is foolish to break a $795.00 fly rod in attempting to save a $2.00 fly.

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.