Join us for our conversation with Tim O’Neill of Norvise. We discuss a lifetime in the outdoors, the secret to successfully tying on a rotary vise, his serendipitous introduction to Norm Norlander and his vision for Norvise’s future. Give it a listen here! Thanks again to this episode’s sponsor, TaleTellers Fly Shop.
Join us for our conversation with Nicole March of The Quilted Tyer - possibly the busiest person in fly fishing! We cover it all from her work as an EMT and a medical tattooist, to The Quilted Tyer, to writing for Fly Tyer and more volunteer work than we have room to list here! Give it a listen here! Thanks again to this episode’s sponsor, Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival.
No matter how hard we try, we simply can’t fish every day. When we are off of the water, we connect with the sport at the vise, sharing stories with our friends or by reading our favorite outdoor writers.
Whether you are treating yourself for the holidays or looking for something for that special fly fishing someone, you should seriously consider one of these great books by the authors we have interviewed in 2018. They are all available on Amazon, and, if you don’t tarry, they will easily arrive before Christmas! You won’t be disappointed!
As the first major snowstorm of the season departs the Southeast, many anglers have officially shifted gears to their “Winter” program. Sure, many of us still fish, but quite a few of us shift our focus to hunting or preparing for next season. Winter is a great time to refill our fly boxes and prepare for warmer days without the fear of missing out.
We have spent quite a bit of time studying the insects commonly found in a trout’s diet and the importance of matching the hatch. The next step is to convert this knowledge into selecting the appropriate fly. While it is tempting to search for the “perfect” pattern, more often than not, you will be better served by focusing on presentation. You will be more successful presenting the “wrong” fly well than the “perfect” fly poorly. Focus on learning to fish a few patterns well. Starting out, if you learn to fish a Pheasant’s Tail, a Hare’s Ear, a Parachute Adams, and an Elk Hair Caddis, you will catch plenty of fish!
As a midge hatch progresses, the pupae finally make their way to the water’s surface. To fish your pupa imitation in the film, simply grease the end of your leader with your favorite liquid or paste floatant. If you want to take the guesswork out of strike detection, you have a couple of options. You can use an extremely small strike indicator. I prefer a small tuft of wool or yarn to avoid spooking trout with the plop of strike putty or a small, hard indicator. Or, you can fish the pupa imitation as a dropper off of a dry fly. Don’t forget to grease the tippet in front of your pupa imitation!
Like the caddis, the midge’s life cycle has three parts: larva, pupa and adult. While midges are small, their abundance makes them a staple in the trout’s diet - particularly in the colder months and on tailwaters. The midge’s small size intimidates many anglers, but it is important to remember that the “match the hatch” techniques we have already learned are equally applicable to midge fishing. From a tactics perspective, a few tweaks can greatly decrease the frustration of fishing smaller flies. For instance, you can pre-tie your midge rigs or use a fly threader like the ones in the C&F Design Fly Threader box. You simply preload your midge patterns onto the threader, and, when you insert your tippet into the threader and pull off a fly, the midge pops off with the tippet threaded. From there, use a simpler knot like the Davy Knot, and you are home free!
As I mentioned in Stoneflies (Part I): Nymphs and Emergers, many of the mayfly and caddisfly techniques described in earlier posts apply equally well to fishing stonefly imitations. It always pays dividends to get current hatch information from your local fly shop or through online fishing reports or hatch charts. If you don’t have a local fly shop to lean on, Orvis’ Eastern Hatch Chart and Western Hatch Chart are good places to start. Just remember stoneflies don’t use calendars any more than mayflies or caddisflies do, so adjust the hatch charts based on current weather and local conditions.
A stonefly’s life cycle has two parts: nymph and adult. Compared to mayflies and caddisflies, stoneflies require the highest water quality, and their presence indicates a healthy ecosystem. As with caddisflies, we can apply the fishing tactics discussed in Mayflies (Part I): Nymphs and Emergers. (Notice the pattern here. Fly fishing isn’t nearly as complicated as you may think. Understanding a few basic concepts will help you be a much more effective angler.) Just like mayflies, stonefly nymphs are available to trout when they are accidentally dislodged from the stream bottom or as a result of behavioral drift. Again, “match the hatch” by checking out the undersides of some rocks or seining the river. Match your nymph imitation to the size and color of the nymphs you find. While you can fish more specific imitations, a Pat’s Rubber Legs or a Girdle Bug can cover a lot of territory. Both of these patterns are extremely easy to tie and involve very few materials, so they are the perfect “starter” fly for the angler who wants to try his or her hand at fly tying. One last thing, most stonefly species spend several years as a nymph before adulthood, so stonefly nymphs are very good searching patterns - particularly in the coldest months of the year. Trout are accustomed to seeing them, and they are a large enough morsel to be worth the trouble. Remember calories in versus calories out!
As I mentioned in Caddisflies (Part I): Larva and Emergers, most of the mayfly techniques described in earlier posts apply equally well to fishing caddis imitations. It always pays dividends to get current hatch information from your local fly shop or through online fishing reports or hatch charts. If you don’t have a local fly shop to lean on, Orvis’ Eastern Hatch Chart and Western Hatch Chart are good places to start. Just remember caddis don’t use calendars any more than mayflies do, so adjust the hatch charts based on current weather and local conditions.
A caddis’ life cycle has three parts: larva, pupa and adult. Unlike the mayfly, the caddis’ larval behavior varies by species. At the risk of oversimplifying things, caddis larvae roughly break down into three categories: free living, net spinning and case building. [For a more detailed discussion, please check out Chapter 6 of Dave Whitlock’s Guide to Aquatic Trout Foods or Gary LaFontaine’s Caddisflies.] Free living caddis larvae resemble tiny worms and inhabit the stream bottom just like mayfly nymphs. As their name implies, net spinning caddis spin silken nets to seine food particles from the water. Finally, case building caddis construct and live in protective cases made from materials found in the stream. In the Southeast, fishermen sometimes refer to them as “stickbait”.
When you think about fly fishing, you can’t help but think about mayflies. There are epic stonefly and caddisfly hatches, but mayflies have been at the center of our storied sport for centuries. While many mayfly species predominantly hatch in the Spring and the early Summer, there are important species such as the Blue Winged Olive (BWO) that are available outside of this traditional window. Cloudy, drizzly afternoons in the late Fall and Winter often result in memorable dry fly fishing for this tiny mayfly. With their constant temperatures and flows, tailwaters often produce epic mayfly hatches lasting for months. The Sulphur hatch on the South Holston is a perfect example.
The mayfly’s life cycle has three parts: nymph, subimago (or dun) and imago. The nymph is the underwater stage that hatches into a sexually immature dun. Shortly after hatching, the dun molts into a sexually mature imago, mates and dies. Most fly fishermen focus on nymphs and duns. Fishing the spinner fall for imagos is fun but involves a tricky combination of planning, luck and often technical fishing.
Since most of the Southeast hasn’t yet experienced a few hard frosts, terrestrials can still play a meaningful part in your Fall trout game. There are times when trout key on terrestrials such as grasshoppers out West or cicada or flying ant hatches, but, for the most part, in the Southeast, terrestrials are a change-up pitch. Since most anglers don’t fish terrestrials, they are a great choice when fishing over selective or heavily pressured fish. They don’t appear out of place, and they haven’t educated as many trout with the barb of the hook. For instance, on the South Holston River, it is sometimes difficult to dial-in the trout. A small, black beetle can often seal the deal. Don’t limit your terrestrial fishing to dry flies. Sunken patterns can also be effective!
Now that we have a basic understanding of trout behavior and requirements, we can apply a similar analysis to the insects and other organisms that make up a trout’s diet. By focusing on the intersection of trout and their forage, we can significantly increase the odds in our favor, because we have a deeper understanding of when, where and how to target trout. [Dave Whitlock’s Guide to Aquatic Trout Foods is an excellent resource offering detailed information on major food types and suggested imitations. For a deeper dive, check out Ernie Schwiebert’s Nymphs (Volume I) and Nymphs (Volume II).] Just like trout, there are seasonal aspects to food behavior. For instance, for insects (like mayflies) that hatch multiple times in a season, each successive generation is smaller than the one before it. So, if you are fishing late in the season, you should select a smaller fly to imitate the targeted insect species.