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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
When we are floating the smallmouth bass river or climbing the mountain trout stream we usually carry a lunch and drinking water in our vest. After fishing for several hours our hands may be grubby. I carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my vest and scrub my hands good before eating lunch.
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.
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.
The most valuable skill a smallmouth angler can develop is learning to read the water accurately. The few minutes spent analyzing a section of a river in this way will give you more bass on the spot and a better understanding of all sections of the rivers in the future.
I see this as a three step process. First I strive to determine where the bass will be holding. The best of these areas are a combination of a feeding station and a holding area. The second step is determining where to present my fly so I can fish it effectively through the basses feeding station. The third step is positioning myself at the precise spot which will enable me to make my presentation accurately and swim my fly convincingly through the basses feeding station.
My angler’s calendar is very large, having about two inch square spaces for each date. This allows plenty of space for me to write in where I fished that day, the water temperature, the hatches, water level, my catch and any other important information. Each January when I get a new calendar I write in the above information from previous years. This brings back wonderful memories as I record these previous trips. It also helps me plan future fishing trips as I correlate the present stream conditions and hatches with what I did on past trips under similar conditions. Great fun!
“I am new to fly fishing and need advice on rods for freshwater fishing”. This question came in as email and I believe many anglers are at this point. In order to answer this in a meaningful way I will discuss the outfits I use in various types of fly fishing and why. I will break this down into four separate blogs and post one each week:
(A) Small Mountain Streams
(B) Large Eastern Trout Streams and Western Spring Creeks
(C) Large Western Trout Streams
(D) Bass Streams and Lakes
Part (B) Large Eastern Trout Streams and Western Spring Creeks
In answering my beginning anglers question for help on “selecting tackle: let us look at the ideal outfit to use on large trout streams in the East. This could be the Beaverkill in New York, Big Spring Creek in Pennsylvania or The Jackson in Virginia. I use flies as small as 24 Tricos on 7X on these streams and go up to nymphs as large as size 8. Accuracy in fly placement as well as delicacy is very important on these streams, as is drag-control on the drifting of the flies. I find that a delicately tipped 9 foot 4 weight rod is perfect for this eastern fishing as well as fishing Western Spring Creeks. For me personally rods which require lines larger than four do not give me the delicacy I like and rods shorter than 9 feet long rob me of drag control. My favorite rods are the Scott G2 9 foot 4 weight 4 piece and the Scott Radian 9 foot 4 weight 4 piece.
I have a good friend who injured his right shoulder badly. Since he cast with his right hand he was very disappointed that he would loose a season’s fishing while he recovered from surgery. I encouraged him to just switch over and cast with his left hand which he did and he was able to fish the whole season.
In my fly fishing schools I have always had to cast with both hands to help all of my students. If you have not tried this give it a go. You will be pleased how well you do. After all you already know the proper casting technique.
When you are fishing streamers across stream for trout or bass as you wade downstream stop and stand still before stripping your fly back. This enables you to quickly detect the strike and set the hook.
Folstaff Wading Staff $132.00
A good wading stick is a great aid when wading fast streams and I don’t mean just large rivers. If you accidently fall down in water waist deep you get wet, if you fall down in water ankle deep you can break bones. I use a Folstaff Wading Staff in all streams I fly fish. If, however, you need to wade across a waist deep fast river and don’t have a wading stick here is a method which has helped me in the the large rivers we fish in the Rockies. Point your fly rod downstream with your downstream arm extended full length so the tip and six inches of the rod tip rest on the surface of the river. Maintain this contact point, just brushing the surface of the stream, as you wade slowly across the fast water. This simple method improves your balance greatly and helps you keep from falling.
Watch Harry’s Video on the Folstaff Wading Staff and the benefits of using a wading staff while fishing on the river.
This photo essay will cover the steps to clean and dress your fly line to ensure optimum performance.
Strip the fly line off of your reel. Be careful to strip it into an area that is clean and safe from feet. I like to make 3-4 foot strips and thoroughly inspect the fly line as I am going. I look for nicks in the coating and check my knots for signs of weakness. I make it a habit of re-tying all of my knots once a year, especially the line/leader knot.
Strip the fly line through your soapy towel. I strip the line through twice. Once from tip to butt and then from butt to tip.
After cleaning with soapy towel, remove soap by stripping fly line under running water. Again strip form tip to butt then butt to tip.
Dry the fly line thoroughly.
Strip the fly line through the applicator pad/ line dressing. Again work from tip to butt and then from butt to tip. This will help to ensure all of the microscopic nicks and dings are filled with line dressing.
Remove the excess fly line dressing with a clean soft cloth by stripping the line from butt to tip and then tip to butt. We are then ready to wind the line back onto the reel.
As the season progresses and you notice that your fly line begins to feel sticky or that it just doesn’t shoot right. When this happens, follow the steps above to restore the performance of the line. Depending on how dirty your streams or ponds are (i.e. grass, moss, pollen, mud) will dictate how often you should clean and dress your fly line. We use Scientific Anglers Fly Line Dressing or Glide Line Dressing on our personal and school outfits and have been pleased with the results. If you have any questions, please feel free to email us (email@example.com) or give us a call at 540-984-4212.
Thank you to our valued customers and friends for allowing us to share the joy of fly fishing with them. Â We have been blessed with the opportunity to meet many new and wonderful people and to strengthen friendships along the way. Fishing, especially fly fishing for us, is not as much about how many or how big the fish are; it is about the journey and those we choose to share it with.
As for the new year, we would like to wish everyone a healthy and prosperous 2010. Â Whatever resolutions you may make, be sure to include some time for friends and fishing.
Tight Lines and God Bless,
The Staff at Murray’s Fly Shop and Jeff and Harry
Always carry several band aids in you billfold when you are fishing to fix your cuts and to make small tackle repairs.