Flies of Yesteryear Blog- Murray’s Fly Shop- Edinburg, Virginia
Many of you have asked me for more information on some of the flies that I used in the past. This is not meant to be a precise historical account of these flies. As you know many of the old flies were tied in different ways. This is just some information on these flies as I remember them. When I started fishing the Yellowstone River in the seventies many of us were big fish hunting. Dan Bailey who had a fine fly shop in Livingston, Montana was a expert angler. He was very helpful to visiting anglers like me. He said that many of the large trout fed on bull head minnows in the deep runs.
The two flies he used were the Dark Sprucefly and the Muddler. Dan said he fished these on a Scientific Anglers Hi D Fast Sinking thirty foot Head. He then attached this to one hundred feet of twenty five pound test mono. I followed Dan’s directions and caught many large browns.
A few years later, Donnie Williams, one of Dan’s guides, and Red Monical, Dan’s partner, decided to merge the Spruce Fly with the Muddler. The result was the Spuddler.
By this time the term bull head minnow was replaced by the name Sculpin Minnow. Certainly the Spuddler which Donnie and Red developed was one of our first effective sculpin minnow streamers. Today I use it for trout and smallmouth bass all across the country.
Yes, we have sculpin minnows in many smallmouth bass rivers. When I was a kid I used to seine them to use them as live bait when I was smallmouth bass fishing on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River at Edinburg, Virginia.
In fact, I was recently guiding two smallmouth bass anglers on a float trip on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. The Spuddler fly was very productive that day! About two miles upstream of our take out spot a very heavy rain storm moved in on us. One of the anglers wanted to quit but his partner would not consider it. He insisted on fishing until dark and caught a nice smallmouth bass about every third cast.
My favorite tactic for both trout and smallmouth bass with the Spuddler is to cast across stream. After it sinks deeply, swim it back slowly across the streambottom by stripping it six inches every ten seconds.
Here is one of the recipes for the components used in tying the Spuddler. I just checked one of my old streamer fly boxes and I found Spuddlers tied in five different ways. They all came from Dan’s fly shop.
Spuddler Tying Materials Hook: Mustad 9672 size 4, 6, 8 or 10
Thread: Brown 3/0 Prewaxed Monocord
Body Weight: Medium Lead Free Wire
Body: Cream Yarn
Wing: Dark Furnace Hackle and Squirrel Tail
Head and Collar: Brown Deer Body Hair
Tail: Brown Calf Tail
Throat: Red Yarn
In my country most anglers call these madtoms. Some anglers know them as stonecats. These are those mean looking minnows that can sting you painfully if you do not handle them properly. The large bass in the river feed heavily upon them.
These minnows live under cobblestones on the streambottom. They like the sections of the river where there is at least a moderate current. Some are found in the riffles but when we seined them we would find the greatest populations in the lower two hundred feet of the tails of the pools.
They would come out at dusk, dark and heavily overcast days to feed. Many of the mid pool areas upstream of the tails of the pools have cuts which are six to eight feet deep. Many large bass can be caught here on this fly.
An effective method is to float or wade downstream to the side of these deep areas. Starting at the upstream sections of these deep cuts, fish your Stonecat slowly along the streambottom with a Sinking Tip III Fly Line or Fast Sinking Head Fly Line.
The feeding stations can be at many different locations in these cuts. I like to fish the whole area thoroughly by fanning my casts over the complete area I can reach. By moving downstream and stopping every ten feet to repeat this casting sequence, I catch many large bass.
Even though these minnows come out to feed mainly in low light conditions, these deep cuts are productive throughout the day.
From June until September most smallmouth bass rivers produce great numbers of dragonflies. Most of the adults I see are in shades of brown and olive.
The dragonfly nymphs crawl from the streambottom to the aquatic weeds, brush piles or down trees lying in the stream. Then they crawl up out of the water. Here they split their nymph case along the back and crawl out as adults. It often takes up to an hour for the veins on their wings to fill with fluid so they can fly. This usually takes place in the morning, at dusk or at night.
Fish this along aquatic grassbeds beside the river banks and those which encircle the limestone ledges in the middle of the river. This can be very effective at dawn and dusk. A slow two to three inch stripping action every five seconds mimics the struggling action of these dragonflies. I believe this catches many bass.
Once the adult dragonfly become airborne, they fly low over the stream. They feed on adult mayflies, caddisflies and mosquitos. I often see bass leaping into the air in an attempt to grab these flies or possibly knock them into the river. They are such powerful flyers this is seldom successful but it opens the door on a very exciting and effective angling tactic. I dress my whole Murray’s Bright Butt 9 foot 2X Leader and dragonfly dry fly liberally with Bug Flote.
I cast down and across stream forty feet at a forty five degree angle to the area I see the bass jumping. As soon as my fly lands on the stream I remove all of the slack with my line hand. I then extend the fly rod high over the river at a forty five degree angle.
By using a series of two foot upstream sweeps every ten seconds with my fly rod I can often get violent strikes from these bass.
If there are few jumping bass this method is often very effective between the river-crossing ledges where the water is from four to six feet deep. Great fun!
Last summer many of you asked me to develop a very durable and more effective adult dry bass damselfly than the patterns that are available now for smallmouth bass.
By evaluating the various bass feeding stations and the feeding habits of the smallmouth bass in many sections of the rivers, I started experimenting.
Part of my challenge was the realization that smallmouth bass in different parts of the rivers feed differently on natural adult blue damsel dry flies. For example, those bass I found close to the aquatic grassbeds along the banks took the natural damselflies with solid sipping rise forms much like a trout feeding on a mayfly hatch. Those smallmouth bass feeding on adult damselflies buzzing above the
rivers in the large pools exhibit splashing or jumping rise forms.
Thus I needed to tie a new fly which could mimic both of these actions.
After testing a great number of materials and tying styles I finally came up with the Murray’s Bass Blue Damsefly Dry Fly. This fly catches many smallmouth bass in all type of cover.
I catch many bass which are feeding along the aquatic grassbeds on the sides of the river. I do this by wading or floating down the river forty feet out from the grassbeds. I then cast my fly tight against the grass. A slow line hand stripping action which swims the damselfly two inches every five seconds usually does the job.
I catch those bass which are rising and jumping in the large pools by skating my damselfly with two foot bursts every ten seconds across the surface of the river. When I fish this new damselfly dry fly I dress both the leader and fly often with Murray’s Dry Fly Floatant every half hour.
Stop Twisted Smallmouth Bass Leaders While Fly Fishing
When the tippet of your smallmouth bass leader gets twisted, it can easily form small knots. These knots will weaken your leader. Then when you set the hook on a large bass, you break him off!
Twisted tippets can occur:
(1) If the fly is too large for the tippet being used. Fly Size ÷ 3= Tippet in X
(2) If the tippet is too long. Two to three feet is long enough.
(3) If the fly you are using is out of symmetry. Long legs and wings on Deer Hair Bass Bugs and Poppers can cause this.
(4) If you have gotten a pull-through on your fly where the tippet gets wrapped around the fly.
It is a good idea to check your tippet periodically to make sure it had not developed any twists.
Out With The Old Tippet Material Blog- Murray’s Fly Shop
Each year I like to replace all of my tippet material. This includes everything from 0X down to 7X. The tippet is the weakest part of our fly fishing tackle. I do not like to take a chance in breaking of a large fish for the few dollars it will cost to replace it.
Late Season Smallmouth Bass Fly Fishing Blog- Murray’s Fly Shop
The back eddies that form below the riffles on the side of the river with the slowest current often hold large bass as the rivers get cold. The slow current and the abundance of minnow life prompt this mini-migration from the shallows. These back eddies can range from ten to fifty feet in diameter and four to six feet deep. I catch many of these bass on the Murray’s Magnum Bluegill Streamer size 4 and Murray’s Magnum Darter Streamer size 4. I strip them six inches every ten seconds to swim them slowly across the streambottom. A sinking head line is a big help with my Murray’s Fluorocarbon 6 foot 2X Sinking Line Leader. I want to hook these bass solidly in the deep water. I use a three foot fast line hand strike simultaneously with a powerful rod lifting strike.
Barbless Hooks Blog- Murray’s Fly Shop- Edinburg, Virginia
Thirty years ago Virginia Game & Inland Fisheries closed the South Fork of the Shenandoah River to keeping fish for human consumption. This is after DuPont revealed they dumped mercury into the river. Many anglers believed that the river was closed to fishing. That was not true! Basically, I had the whole river almost to myself. The fishing was outstanding! This invited me to do a great deal of experimentation. Some of this included comparing the number of bass I landed on barbless hooks with the number I landed on barbed hooks.
After a summer of testing I came away convinced that I landed 30% more bass on the barbless hooks. I believe that many of the bass that got off were not hooked solidly with the barb penetrating their hard lips. Basically I suspected they were just hanging on the point of the hook. A slight flip during the fight set them free. Today I use all barbless hooks from size 24 midges up to size 4/0 saltwater hooks.
I enjoy the challenge of fly fishing for smallmouth bass at night because I often catch some large bass. Choosing sections of the river I know well allows me to get in and out of the stream safely. This helps me to avoid old barbed wire fence and itch weed. I use a Folstaf Wading Staff to probe the streambottom. I do this so I do not trip over a ledge or wade into a deep pool.
The Best Time for Smallmouth Bass Fly Fishing on the North or South Fork
Smallmouth bass feed the heaviest in low light levels. For my personal fishing this means the first two hours at dawn and the last two hours at dusk. Since I am in my fly shop until after 5 pm each day, I can easily grab my tackle. I can get to either the North or South Fork of the Shenandoah River for several hours of great fishing.
During these low light levels the bass often move to the areas that contain large populations of natural foods. Some of my most productive areas in the low light levels are the edges of the grassbeds where the water is two to three feet deep. Also in the tails of the pools. Also the two to three foot deep gravel bars where they taper off into the deep water.
For the last several weeks I have been catching many smallmouth bass along the shaded banks with the Shenandoah Blue Popper size 4.
If the water is three to five feet deep over cobblestone streambottoms many fish feed in these shaded areas.
I like to cast my Shenandoah Blue Popper within a foot of the banks. I even use a side-arm cast at times to shoot my Shenandoah Blue Popper back under overhanging tree limbs. Often I use a gentle upstream mend to help hold the Shenandoah Blue Popper close to the bank as the current pulls it downstream.
This tactic is so productive that I often spend several hours using it as long as the stream depth and shade hold up.
If you see a nice fly rod and reel resting against a tree at a popular access point and there is no other car close by, just leave it there. Eventually the owner will realize where he left it and he will come back to get it. If you find a rod and reel underwater in a river, take it to the closest tackle shop and tell them where you found it. Also write down the manufacturer and the serial number on the rod. Then call the manufacturer, they may have the owners name and address on record.
My most productive minnow imitation is the Murray’s Magnum Hog Sucker Streamer size 4. For many years the bait fishermen have relied on the natural hog suckers to catch their largest bass. I fish these along the edge of the gravel bars where they drop into the deep part of the river at dusk. I catch many bass this way!
My most effective surface bug is the Shenandoah Blue Popper size 4. I rely strongly on this fly because it out-fishes other surface bugs by a great margin. I just do not like to change a winning game!
I am very confident that these five smallmouth bass flies will give me excellent fly fishing in 2017 from July until October. This is because last year they gave me the best bass fishing I have had in many years.
During summer, as the sun intensifies I catch most of my bass in the middle of the day along the heavily shaded banks. This is where the water is three to five feet deep over cobblestone streambottoms. However, my very best fishing is at dawn and dusk in the tails of the pools. My standard leader for smallmouth bass fishing is the Murray’s Bright Butt 9 foot 2X Leader.
Smallmouth Bass River Float Trips Blog- Murray’s Fly Shop
Smallmouth bass river float trips can be very productive and a great amount of fun. I like to hold my trips down to miles or less. This is because when I come to a nice grassbed and riffle, I like to beach my boat. Then I get out to wade and fish these areas.
Even though our Hyde Drift Boat has excellent leg-locks in both the front and back, I do not like to stand up in a boat when fly fishing for smallmouth bass. I believe that this will scare the smallmouth bass.
It is wise to carry a backup fly rod and reel in the boat in case something gets broken. One day on the Yellowstone River an outfit fell overboard and was gone. Even in the summer I always carry a raincoat and a change of clothes in a dry bag.
I like to park the vehicle that will carry or tow my boat at the downstream take our spot in case a bad storm comes up and I want to get away from the river quickly.
Many large smallmouth bass select their “primary feeding stations” according to the amount of natural food that is available. They also select it because of the low level of the natural light. This is why almost everyday during the summer, after I close my fly shop, I head to the Shenandoah River to fish the tail of a pool at dusk.
Jeff and I have been using our Scott Switch Rods for bass fishing in the the rivers for many years. Here are a few of the great angling features the switch rods help us with. If I am wading a river where there is a solid line of trees behind me that would prevent a regular back cast with my regular, single hand, smallmouth bass rod, the switch rod easily lets me roll out long casts.
When I am fishing nymphs and streamers across fast currents the extra length of my switch rod easily helps me reach high in order to negate the fast currents before me that would rob me of depth. Also in similar situations I can use long controlled mends in order to swim my flies deeply.
Making long casts is easy with a switch rod so I can fish poppers along the far shaded banks when the river before me is too deep to wade.
I am presently working with land owners in order to develop more access sites for anglers on our streams. Most of them are very understanding and are willing to help. Trash left on their land is the land owners main concern. One even told me that someone had dumped an old mattress on his land. This was the exact spot I was asking him for permission for us to park and fish.
In order to have a good relationship with these land owners, I suggest we each carry a few plastic garbage bags in our cars. Then we can clean up the access sites where we park to fish before we start fishing.
It is also good policy to clean up access sites on the National Forest and National Park Lands.
In this fly fishing podcast, Harry Murray discusses the questions you have either emailed or phoned about within the last month. He goes into details on how to spot the trout in the stream. He discusses the importance of the hatch charts in predicting which aquatic insects will hatch at what times. He reveals his personal uses of the loop to loop line leader connection verses a needle knot connection.
Heavy Angling Pressure Blog- Murray’s Fly Shop- Edinburg, Virginia
Frequently I find outstanding smallmouth bass fly fishing on rivers that receive heavy angling pressure. Mostly from floating fishermen in boats, canoes and kayaks. My trick is to wade into the river at the popular take-out spots. Then turn and wade upstream for my fly fishing.
I have found that the stretched of the smallmouth bass river upstream from the popular take-out spots actually receive light angling pressure. It looks to me like that by the time most float-trips anglers reach the take-out spot they are wither worn-out, running late or are drunk! At any rate the serious angling pressure is light.
Streamer Fly Fishing Blog- Murray’s Fly Shop- Edinburg, Virginia
Streamers normally imitate minnows and bait fish. A very effective tactic is to cast these across stream and swim them back across stream so the fly is broadside to the current. As the current plays on the fly and fly line it is pulled downstream as it swings across stream. It is very important to keep the rod tip pointed where the fly line enters the stream. Then you can feel the strike the instant the fish take it. In this way you can set the hook quickly with a combination line-hand strike. You can also use a rod lifting motion before the fish detects it as a phony and ejects it. I find that by rotating my body downstream at the same rate the streamer is swinging, I can easily apply this technique.
Each evening when I return from a local fishing trip, I record the important fishing information on a large calendar in my kitchen. This helps me plan my later trips this season and during future years. Information which I find helpful includes: the stream fished and which section, stream level, stream temperature, the insect hatches and hot heavy, my most productive flies and the best sizes.
When I return from distant trips out of state that I fish for two to three weeks, I record the information in my stream log that will help me plan future trips. Some of this includes the best streams fished and what sections and weather. Other important information is stream levels, hatches, most productive flies and general information on food and lodging.
Murray’s Fly Shop
PO Box 156
121 South Main Street
Edinburg, Virginia 22824
Phone Number: 540-984-4212
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
This week’s blog we will be discussing a Loop Versus a Needle Knot.
Most fly lines now come with a loop built into the forward part of the line. This is very convenient for connecting your leader with a loop to loop connection. Therefore I use this on my seven weight smallmouth bass outfit. However, on my trout outfits for lines two to three in the East and lines four to six in the Rockies, I attach my leaders to the fly line with a needle knot. I coat these with three very thin coats of Pliobond. I prefer the needle knot on my lighter outfits. It slides through the guides easier than a loop to loop line connection.
Murray’s Fly Shop
PO Box 156
121 South Main Street
Edinburg, Virginia 22824
Phone Number: 540-984-4212
Email Address: email@example.com
I never head into any stream without my Folstaf Wading Staff. Many anglers readily see the safety advantages of using a Wading Staff when fishing deep water. However, if you do slip and fall into water which is waist deep you get wet. But remember if you fall down in water which is ankle deep, you can easily break bones. I have tested many different styles of wading staffs, but I like my Folstaff Wading Staff best of all because it is very durable and dependable.
In my Fly Casting and Rigging Tackle Classes and in my “On The Stream Fly Fishing Schools”, I find that most beginning anglers are more interested in learning to cast far than they are to cast well.
Long casts are great when you need them, but for most trout anglers accuracy and delicacy in fly placement are the main goals which spell success on the stream. When I show my students my “flip cast” and my “pendulum cast”, they are astounded with the accuracy in fly placement they can achieve. The ultimate reward which thrills them is the great number of wary trout they catch in this way.
Murray’s Fly Shop
121 South Main Street
PO Box 156
Edinburg, Virginia 22824
When you are designing a new streamer to match a specific minnow it is great to tie one that looks so much like the real minnow that it impresses your friends. However, when you are on the river fishing the fish appear to take the streamers which ACT like the real minnow they are accustomed to feeding on in that area. It is great when your new streamer looks like that specific minnow but for consistent success it is a must that your new fly ACT like the real minnow in the way it swims through the currents and darts for cover when it is chased by a fish. After a great deal of experimenting with materials and tying techniques, the Murray’s Madtom Sculpin Streamer evolved into a streamer which acts like a real minnow and the fish take quickly. Check the prevalent minnows in your streams and see if you can developed an effective streamer.
In this fly fishing podcast, Harry Murray discusses a broad variety of questions ranging from fishing small mountain trout streams to large western trout streams to river fishing for smallmouth bass. Some of the topics covered include:
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.
Great sections of smallmouth bass rivers to fish are the areas just upstream of the public access areas. These receive much less serious fishing pressure than you would expect, even though many boats take out here everyday. I suspect that this is because by the time most anglers get to the take-out-spot they are either running late, or they are tired or they are drunk! Often I wade into these areas and fish surface bugs such as the Shenandoah Blue Popper right against the bank as I wade upstream for several hundred yards then wade further out into the river or even to the far bank then fish streamers back downstream to the access point.
It is hard to fix it if you do not know what is broken. That is where I was when I started fly fishing for smallmouth bass in the sixties. As a youngster growing up in Edinburg, Virginia on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River in the fifties we all caught many smallmouth bass on real hellgrammites as live bait. However, for my fly fishing after college none of the existing Hellgrammite patterns worked for me. The beautifully tired patterns I got from Abercrombie and Fitch in New York which they called Hellgrammites just did not work. When I started fishing the Yellowstone River in Montana I had Dan Bailey’s girls tie a dozen two inch long versions of his beautiful woven body Mossback Nymphs because these looked to me like my hellgrammites back in Virginia. These we also failures for the smallmouth bass.
Finally Ron Kommer came up with the idea of using Ostrich Herl (or plume) for very large flies. Simultaneously, I was experimenting with real hellgrammites by tossing them into the river to see how they acted. When I dropped the real hellgrammites into the river one by one, I saw that they swam downstream with an exaggerated undulating action as they headed for the streambottom. Finally I saw what was broken: All of these beautiful earlier hellgrammite patterns lacked the capacity to move in an undulating manner like the natural hellgrammites.
By incorporating the ostrich herl as an extended body in this new fly and tying it “in the round” as Charlies Brookes recommended to me, the final Murray’s Heavy Hellgrammite was developed. This is so effective that today it is my favorite smallmouth bass fly.
About two hours before dark on a beautiful August evening I waded across the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, intending to fish one of my favorite riffles fifty yards downstream. The water along the bank right in front of me was only two feet deep and the aquatic grassbed reached twenty feet out into the river. A large smallmouth bass crashed into the grass to catch a shiner minnow just upstream of me. A few seconds later he captured another shiner minnow as he swam upstream along the edge of the grassbed. I felt this was too good for me to pass up! I cast a Silver Outcast Streamer upstream ahead of his path and he took it solidly. As I landed the large bass I noticed more bass chasing shiner minnows upstream through the grassbeds. By wading slowly upstream I caught many more large bass by going one on one with them as I spotted them chasing shiner minnows.
When you are on the water at dusk keep an eye out for this type action because it is very exciting.
Many farmers along the Shenandoah River are wisely using electric fences to keep their cattle out of the river except at special locations. These can really ZAP you. My favorite way to cope with these is to remove my vest and other items and place that and the rod on the far side of the fence well out of the way and then crawl under the fence.
Deer Hair Bass Surface Bugs are easy to tie and are very effective to fish. Here are some tips which help beginning fly tyers in the winter classes I teach in my fly shop tie great deer hair bass bugs. The most important step is to remove all of the fuzz and short hair from each bunch of deer hair as you trim it from the skin. To do this I hold the trimmed bunch of hair by the tips and brush it vigorously with a stiff toothbrush. Next I like to keep the hook shank free of thread wraps except right where I tie the tail in. I also like to use Kevlar tying thread to reduce thread-breakage. Trim the finished bug very closely on the stomach in order to hook the bass securely. Paint the stomach of the bug right along the hook shank with spar varnish cut 50-50 with paint thinner to make the bug very durable. Keep the bug’s appendages on the sides (such as wings and legs) to a minimum so the bug does not twist the leader when casting.
The Tapply Hair Bug and the Murray’s Deer Hair Bass Bug Series are good examples of smooth, very effective Deer Hair Bass Bugs.
When I am fishing the back country for trout or more than a mile away from my Jeep on a smallmouth bass river, I always carry a breathable-waterproof raincoat in the back of my fishing vest. This has to pack down small enough to easily fit into my vest. The Simms Hyalite Rain Shell Jacket is perfect. Staying dry is important even in the summer months. Once on a five mile smallmouth river summer float trip two of the five anglers in our group had no raincoats. Three hours up the river from our take-out the rain started and continued heavily all day. Even though we all offered to share our raincoats, the two wet anglers refused. By the time we got to the take out spot our friends were shivering badly. Imagine how cold these two anglers would have been if our float trip had been in March or October.
As I am doing this fly fishing podcast I am realizing that many of you are going to be enjoying the outdoors this July 4th weekend by the phone calls, emails, and orders the fly shop has been receiving. Please be safe and considerate of the land owners and others as you take in natures beauty. I plan to enjoy it myself!
In this podcast I want to discuss the how, when, and where to fish my new “change of pace” dry flies for trout that feed selectively. I thought that if I could develop a different fly which showed the trout a new silhouette and light pattern that matched a natural food they feed upon, I might be able to catch these trout. By experimenting I developed the Murray’s Housefly Dry, Oakworm Dry, Yellow Jacket Dry, Moth Dry, Wasp Dry, and Horsefly Dry. I fish all of these with a Classic 9ft 6X Leader.
The smallmouth bass fishing has been excellent due to the great food load and the rains keeping the water levels up. Hence, in a recent school one of our instructors stuck a smallmouth bass that was over 5 pounds on our Murray’s Crayfish pattern while showing the class the swing nymph technique. Our topwater action is picking up and we have been doing very well with our famous Shenandoah Blue Popper. I fish these on a Bright Butt 9ft. 2X Leader.
This months fly fishing questions and answers podcast includes techniques to use for the trico hatch that is coming very soon, a simple and easy method to untwist those bass lines and leaders, a technique to fish the hellgrammites and the best way to handle thunderstorms during a float trip on the river.
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.
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.
The most dependable way to get good information on what you might encounter on a new float trip is to talk to someone who has floated that area recently, then follow their advice. Two years ago a friend in Montana did not follow this advice and he flipped his boat and drowned. Recently two friends did not ask me about floating a smallmouth bass river and I believe they relied only on a guide book. The float trip they had planned should have taken six hours. As it turned out it took them seventeen hours. They had to cross three large dams and they finally got out of the river at three in the morning, naturally in the dark. The next time they asked me where to float!
You become aware that your fly line is twisted when you are standing in the river casting. This is easy to fix. Remove the fly from the leader and cast straight downstream forty feet, as the current pulls out all of the slack line strip forty feet more line from the reel and feed it downstream. Allow this to hang tight in the current for ten minutes then crank it back in and the twist will be removed.
There are days when the smallmouth bass feed heavily on minnows and fishing streamers catches these fish. However, there are days when they feed mostly on natural nymphs and we catch these smallmouth bass on “artificial nymphs”. Realizing this, I decided to develop one fly to be fished as a Streamer to catch the minnow feeders as well as matching the natural nymphs which could be fished as a Nymph. I developed the Strymph drawing on Ron Kommer’s idea of using ostrich herl in the tail and Charlie Brooks concept of tying underwater flies “in the round”.
Thus the Strymph can be fished upstream dead drift and across the current in a swing nymphing method both of which match our natural nymphs.
The Strymph can easily be fished across stream with a deep swimming action which matches all of our minnows. Simply stated, there is no wrong way to fish the Murray’s Strymph, and it is equally effective for both smallmouth bass and trout.
If you are interested in learning how to tie the Murray’s Strymph, here is the tying kit or you can just purchase the tying instructions recipe sheet.
FlyFishing Report for Virginia including native brook trout and smallmouth bass fishing.
April is the favorite month for trout fishing by many serious mountain trout fishermen. With the ideal stream levels and water temperatures, the trout are feeding and the hatches continue. In this podcast I will be discussing these specific hatches, the order in which to expect them, and what flies to use to match these hatches. The number one selling fly to match these hatches–Mr. Rapidan Parachute Dry size 14. I fish these on our Murray’s Classic 7 1/2ft 5X Leaders. Also, check out our new Foam Leader Keepers. These are very handy for those that hate complicated knots and changing tippet material while on the stream.
The smallmouth bass fishing on the Shenandoah River will start to take off in April as the water warms and the bass start to feed. I like to use streamers which match the natural foods the bass are seeing in the river such as Murray’s Heavy Streamers in Chub, Sunfish or Shiner all in size 6. These are fast sinking streamers which will help get through the spring currents. I use a Sink Tip III Fly Line with a Sinking 6ft. 2X Leader in fast currents and water over 4 feet deep. In moderate currents I use a Scientific Anglers Frequency Boost Fly Line with a Murray’s Bright Butt 9ft 2X Leader. The second part of this podcast includes the areas I like to fish (bank bays) at this time of the year and the productive tactics and gear including rods.
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.
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.
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.
Many of the large bass are very wary in the low clear rivers at this time of the year. Fortunately, the thick aquatic grassbeds that form now give us many options for hiding our approaches.
Recently I was wading and fishing upstream in a large slow pool where the grass grew to the surface over 3/4 of the pool. I had waded in almost to my chest and since the water ahead of me was even deeper I could not go any further. I had only an hour of daylight left so it was too late to go to another part of the stream. I decided to fish the water thoroughly upstream of me. By fanning casts of a Shenandoah Blue Popper into all of the open pockets in the grassbeds and along the edges of the grassbeds, I had one of the finest evenings of smallmouth fishing I have ever experienced!
I believe there were three reasons for my success that will help us in the future. (1) The deep water had me locked into a small area so my wading was not scaring the bass. (2) The dense grassbeds provided good shade and feedings stations for the bass. (3) I was there at the prime feeding time for the bass.
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.