Tag Archives: trout fly fishing

Be Safe

I now carry a knife on both my trout and bass vests and find many uses for it.
I now carry a knife on both my trout and bass vests and find many uses for it.

I carry a small very sharp knife on both my trout and bass vests in order to cover an unexpected emergency.
The need for this came when I almost drowned on a large river in Montana. I was dragging an anchor behind my personal kick boat when the anchor became stuck in very fast ten foot deep water. Foolishly I assumed that if I could wrap the anchor rope around my forearm and pull my kick boat upstream I could free the anchor. It did not work! However, my wrapping created a half hitch knot over my forearm which pulled the back of my boat deeply underwater and I knew I was in serious trouble.
To this day I do not know how I got out of this dilemma. I do know if I had a knife on my vest I could have easily cut the rope and floated freely down the river.

Fly Fishing Stream Report Podcast – Late Summer 2015

Fly Fishing Stream Report Podcast - Murray's Fly Shop
Many large trout feed heavily on natural cress bugs below the springs during the summer.

Fly Fishing Stream Report Podcast – Late Summer 2015 with Harry Murray

In this fly fishing stream report Harry Murray discusses the best areas to find the trout in the stocked trout streams and the most productive flies and techniques including Ed Shenk’s Cress Bug.  Also with the water levels dropping for the end of the summer he touches on the best flies (Murray’s Moth, Housefly, Oakworm, & Yellow Jacket) to use to catch those brook trout in the mountain trout streams in the Shenandoah National Park using the hands and knees approach.
The last section of this podcast covers the smallmouth bass fishing on the Shenandoah River. He discusses when, where and how to catch the bass feeding on the Hexagenia Mayflies along with a new technique and flies (Mr. Rapidan Skater, Shad Streamer) for catching bass with a riffle hitch.
See our video on the riffle hitch (click here).

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.

Easy Trout

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

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

My Helpful Angler’s Calendar

Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop Virginia
I rely strongly on my calendar to find good fishing for both trout and smallmouths throughout the season.

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!

An Expert Anglers Insight

Jeff Murray relies on Ed Shenk's Crickets in trout streams all across the country.
Jeff Murray relies on Ed Shenk’s Crickets in trout streams all across the country.

For many years a Cricket Dry Fly has been one of my most dependable flies all across the country in all types of trout streams. I have experimented with many different ties but Ed Shenk’s Cricket has given me many more large trout than all of the other patterns. I believe the reason Ed Shenk’s Cricket is so effective is because when he designed it he was able to use materials and a style of tying which effectively mimicked the light pattern of the natural cricket. Ed Shenk’s Cricket can also be fished with a very realistic kicking action when desired.
Ed Shenk has been a good friend for many years and he still ties his Crickets and Letort Hoppers for me to sell in my fly shop, Murray’s Fly Shop in Edinburg, Virginia.

New Angler, Part B

Trout Fly Fishing in Eastern and Western Spring Creeks.
Trout Fly Fishing in Eastern and Western Spring Creeks.

“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.

Switch-Hand Casting

Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop Virginia
By knowing the basics of good fly casting one can easily cast with either hand.

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.

New Angler

Trout Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
Harry Murray is fishing in a small mountain trout stream.

“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

(A) Small Mountain Trout Streams
These streams require rods that give good accuracy and delicacy from twenty to thirty feet which are short enough to cast under the overhanging tree limbs. In rod design this calls for a rod with a delicate tip and a butt section that is firm enough to turn the tip over. Three weight rods are excellent for this delicate fishing with flies from size 22 up to size 10. Rods which are 6 foot 10 inches long up to 7 1/2 feet are ideal. My favorite is the Murray/Scott Mountain Trout Rod which is 6 foot 10 inches long, 3 piece and 3 weight. This approach will help you select the correct tackle to use on small trout streams all across the country.

The next section of these blogs will be posted next Thursday!

Hiking Comfort

Hiking Trout Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop Virginia
If I am going more than 2 miles into the head of a stream I wear hiking boots and carry my boot foot wading hip boots.

When I hike into the remote hollows to fish mountain trout streams I wear my felt sole boot foot hippers if I am going two miles or less. If I am going to hike in more than two miles I wear hiking shoes and hang my hippers over my shoulders. Then when I get to the area I plan to fish I put my hippers on and hide my hiking shoes behind a tree. When I finish fishing I retrieve my hiking shoes and wear these back to my jeep. I never wear chest-high or waist-high waders when fishing small mountain trout streams because they limit my ability to crawl along the streams.

Caddisflies Tandem Rig

Dry fly with a nymph dropper
A combination dry fly with a nymph dropper is effective in many cases.

At this time of the year caddisflies are very active. Frequently each evening there are adults returning to the streams to deposit eggs as well as emerging adults from the stream. For every adult we see drifting along the surface of the stream there are possibly a dozen pupa drifting just below the surface of the stream preparing to hatch into an adult.
A good way to cash in on this great action is to attach a Mr. Rapidan Delta Wing Dry Caddis to the leader and then attach a two foot strand of tippet material to the bend of the dry fly hook with an improved clinch knot. To this attach a Murray’s Caddis Pupa. On large trout streams and smallmouth rivers I fish this rig across stream with a slow twitching action. On small mountain trout streams I fish this rig upstream dead drift.

Find Good Trout Fishing

Hiking Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop Virginia
Hiking into the back country is the best way I know to find good fishing.










I have a good angling friend who consistently gets very good trout fishing. In order to accomplish this he simply says, “I walk away from the roads.” He uses this ploy on both stocked streams and wild brook trout streams. Fortunately one can easily achieve this on the mountain streams. The National Forest and National Parks have provided good roads to the access points at the heads of these streams. By parking at these trail heads on the tops of the mountains and walking in a mile or two you can often find great trout fishing. I have covered many of these trail head access points in my book, Virginia Blue Ribbon Streams.

Study Entomology

Studying the natural insects in the stream is great fun and very rewarding.

If you fall down in a shallow stream and anyone is watching, rather than splashing around while you embarrassingly try to stand up, just stay there. Calmly pick up some stones from the stream bottom and examine them very carefully one by one as if you are making a study of the insect life on the streambottom.

Dry Fly Refusal

Trout Fly Fishing Murray's Fly Shop VA
Many trout fly refusals can be overcome by using slightly smaller flies and getting drag free drifts.

Many trout refusals of dry flies result from one of two problems which can be easily corrected. First the fly may be too large for his liking. Here we simply switch to a smaller fly.  A dragging dry fly is another cause for refusals. Here a slack line cast, or a different presentation position, or a different presentation angle or dropping your dry fly closer to the trout’s feeding station will enable the dry fly to drift naturally and the trout will take it solidly.

Match the Hatch

Mr. Rapidan Parachute Dry Fly
Mr. Rapidan Parachute Dry Fly

I really enjoyed identifying the aquatic insect hatches with Art Flick’s help for the three book I have written on the subject. And I still spend a great amount of time studying and photographing aquatic insects. Admittedly, I do rely on this information when I am fishing.
However, one of the finest anglers I have ever known simplifies the match the hatch game. He always studied the streams carefully and each day when we were on the stream he watched closely to see what was hatching. The important physical features to him were the size and color of the hatching insects. Then armed with this information he would select the fly to use that day which matches the naturals in size and color. I have never fished with anyone who caught more trout than Jack Sperry.

Mastering Trout Nymph Fishing


Mayfly Nymph Murray's Fly Shop VA Fly Fishing
One can often catch many trout in high cold water by using nymph patterns which match the natural insects.

Here is how you can easily solve the dilemma of trout nymph fishing. On a day when you have caught several dozen trout on dry flies you know they are feeding well. Now, replace the dry fly with a nymph and continue fishing the same sections of the pools. If you do not continue catching as many trout as you did with dry’s the reason is very simple: You are getting strikes but not detecting them.
I find that the new Murray’s Trout Nymph leader with its special knotted taper and two Scientific Anglers Indicators spaced along it is a great help in discerning the strikes.
As the nymph drifts naturally along the stream bottom be sure to retrieve the line with long line hand strips. Short pulls mask the strike. When you see the strike set the hook quickly with both the line hand and the rod.

Short Casts

Fly Fishing Virginia Murray's Fly Shop
Jeff Murray fights a nice trout he caught in a full trout stream by using a short accurate cast.

When the mountain trout streams are carrying a high water level I always catch more fish by using short casts to precise feeding stations. Under these conditions long casts which place extra line and leader on the water can easily produce drag on the fly even when using your best effort to bridge the fast currents with your fly rod. These fast dragging drifts will almost always be refused by the trout.
Another good reason to use short casts in high streams is because the feeding stations are much more compressed than they are in a normal stream level.  Dinner-plate accuracy in fly placement is often a must in high streams. The positive side of this is that the trout has less time to evaluate our flies so an accurate cast to a precise feeding station usually brings a strike.

Light Pattern

Murrays Flying Beetle Terrestrial trout fly fishing flies I had taken eight trout in the last several pools on my Murray’s Flying Beetle so when I spotted a nice trout feeding on the surface in the next pool I felt pretty sure he would take my beetle. He came up and looked at it on three consecutive drifts but he would not take it. I brought it in and blotted it dry and redressed it with floatant. On the next drift over the trout he took it solidly. Why? I believe it was because when it was dried and dressed it presented a new light pattern on the streams surface which looked better to him.

Smallmouth Bass & Trout Fly Fishing Report

Smallmouth Bass Fly Fishing in Virginia
In this podcast Harry Murray covers tactics which work well for him as the smallmouth bass rivers get low. These include: 1) Fishing the tails of the pools with the Murray’s Floating Chub Minnows at dusk and dawn. 2) Fishing aquatic grass beds 3) Fishing river crossing ledges.

In the second part of the podcast Harry Murray discusses trout fishing the spring creeks and rich freestone streams with trico mayflies and terrestrial patterns late in the summer. He also covers the tactics and flies which are productive in the low clear mountain streams late in the summer.

High Water Trout on the Fly: Bounce Retrieve

fly fishing trout, trout fly fishing

Many of our large trout streams such as Big Stoney, the Jackson River and the Bullpasture are still carrying full water levels. The fishing is good and we’re taking some of the trout on the surface, but the large trout are being caught by fishing deeply with streamers.
Due to the water volume I use what I call an “Upstream Bounce Retrieve” to help me get my streamers deeply and still impart a realistic minnow-swimming action to my fly. To use this method I wade upstream and cast upstream at no more that a 40 degree angle. I allow my streamer to sink deeply upon presentation then get tight to it with my line hand. As the current pushes my streamer downstream I produce bouncing streamer-swimming action by lifting my fly rod to a 45 degree angle then dropping it back down to a parallel to the streams surface. Keeping a tight line with my line hand and imparting this lifting and dropping action every five feet of the drift produces a teasing minnnow action that many large trout cannot resist.

Don’t Shoot into the Covey

When your dog goes on point and you put up a covey of quail you seldom hit anything if you blast into the covey. You are much more successful if you pick out a specific bird and aim carefully to drop that one, then go to the second bird. This also holds true if you try casting into a pod of rising trout because you usually get drag before a specific trout sees your fly. A more successful tactic is to pick out a specific trout and present your fly accurately to that fish.

Ownership of Virginia’s Rivers in the Courts

Keep Virginia's Waters Open To The Public
Help Protect Your Right To Use And Enjoy Virginia’s Rivers


The history: A civil suit in Alleghany County, VA could set a precedent that allows landowners to usurp the state’s ownership of miles and miles of public rivers.

A developer of a golf course community, who claims to have centuries’ old King’s Grants, wants to privatize several miles of the lower Jackson River (one of Virginia’s largest trout streams and year round tailwater fisheries). He is suing two anglers who point out that the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries promotes this section as public water, where we’re all entitled to fish, wade and anchor boats.

Everyone in Virginia who enjoys its rivers stands to lose if the developer wins and establishes a precedent that will allow other landowners to post river bottoms passing through their property. Anglers, hunters, and paddlers could all face similar suits on other waters even though the state has declared them to be public.

The Attorney General refuses to step into the fray. As a result, the two anglers are fighting this alone, footing the hefty legal bills to defend not just themselves but all Virginians.

They have set up a legal defense fund called Virginia Rivers Defense Fund (VRDF) to help with their legal fees.

Help Protect Your Right to Use and Enjoy Virginia Rivers
Learn more about VRDF at www.virginiariversdefensefund.org

To make a tax deductible donation, one can donate through the website or send checks to:
Friends of the Rivers of Virginia (FORVA) – a 501(c)(3) registered charity
PO Box 1750
Roanoke, VA 24008
(Please write VRDF in the memo line)

Greedy Trout

Last spring we had great hatches on the trout streams in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the brook trout fed heavily on the naturals and readily took our flies. One evening my Mr. Rapidan Dry Fly was pulled up on the edge of a sloping ledge by a fast current. Just as I started to pick it up a large brook trout jumped from the stream up on the edge of the ledge and took my fly. Last fall in the Yellowstone National Park a nice cutthroat, not to be outdone by the brook trout, repeated almost the same move to take my dry fly.

Review of Angling in 2010, Part 2

Smallmouth Bass

The smallmouth fishing was great in Virginia in 2010. Although we fished many streams the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah River produced such great action we spent most of our time here, within 20 minutes of our fly shop. For example, I had a friend visiting in June and in one afternoon he caught well over 50 smallmouth bass, some of which were quite large.

The action stated earlier (March) and lasting longer (November) than we usually have, and we normally fished 4-5 days each week. This gave us time to experiment with our New Scott Switch Rods (which are great for bass) and the new bass flies we were designing. I’m very excited about the 5 new flies I’ve added to our Magnum Series designed to catch large bass. By fall the new Floating Chub Minnows and Floating Dace Minnows had become our favorites because of the large numbers of bass these caught. Seeing the wale of a bass coming from 10 feet away to take a Floating Chub Minnow is a very exciting game. The hexagenia hatch was so heavy and the fishing was so fast that I fished the river almost every evening in September by dancing the Mr. Rapidan Skaters over rising bass.

Many of the students in our “Smallmouth On The Stream Schools” caught so many bass in 2 days that they were ready to fish for smallmouth anywhere, even on their own.
We caught more large Carp this year than we ever have prompting us to put our 2 new carp flies into our line. Be sure to have plenty of backing on your reel because a 20lb. carp can make powerfully long runs.

Late Season Trout

How late in the season can you fish for trout? The way I love trout fishing I go all the way through the winter. However, I’m very careful to select spots where I know there are springs to warm the stream. For example, as I write this in the office of my fly shop I can look out the window at Big Stoney Creek and know there is a large spring just downstream that pulls the trout and prompts their feeding. To find the spring coming in from the side of the stream just look for bright green weed growth along the bank and in the stream.

Side Strike

There are times when you can catch many large trout in large streams by fishing dry flies down and across stream. However, the normal strike of lifting the rod straight up simply pulls the fly out of the mouth of many of these trout. A trick I use is to set the hook by swinging the rod low to my side of the trout. This low side sweeping rod motion along with the current pulling to the side on the leader pulls the fly into the trout’s jaw where he is hooked solidly. This is especially effective when you get strikes from large deliberate browns and cutthroats.