The Rats Nest

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rich's Go To Farmington Flies Tying Class

Finally got a date ironed out at Upcountry folks.  December 3, 2011 9AM till 1-2 PM.  Tuition $75.  Class limited to 8 seats, contact Upcountry Sportfishing @ 860-379-1952.  A $40 deposit to reserve your seat will be accepted over the phone or in person at the shop, balance due on the day of the class.  Seats fill fast, so don't delay.  This is an intermediate tyers class, and not one for beginners so please keep this in mind when signing up.  If you are looking for a beginners class, I do personal one on one lessons, which in my opinion are the best ways to learn.  Or there are a couple other fine tyers out of the shop who offer a beginners class.   Otherwise, here are the Curriculum highlights:  

Rich’s Go-To Farmington Patterns
This class will demonstrate through group participation several patterns that will provide continual success on the Farmington River watershed, but as stated before, these flies work just about anywhere there are trout swimming.  These flies are a wide range of surface and subsurface patterns that with a few alterations can be used to represent several different food forms readily available.  A discussion on all aspects encompassing each pattern will go hand in hand with the hands on participatory tying instruction.   Some things that will be covered will be:
  1. The most productive sizes, color schemes and times when to use the particular pattern.
  2. How to manipulate and utilize the materials properly in the construction of the patterns to produce consistently aesthetic and fishable patterns.
  3. Tips, short cuts and techniques that will make one a more consistent and efficient tyer.
  4. Explain and demonstrate hook choices and reasoning behind the use of certain hooks.
  5. Provide hands on instruction with simultaneous participation throughout all phases of each pattern with an open forum for questions concerning the flies tied. 
Materials Provided
A comprehensive list of materials will be provided to all in attendance  to make sure all parties who participate can obtain them after the class is complete, in house.  Grady and I will be working together prior to the class to assure that all materials used will be in stock.    During the class portion all materials for construction of the fly will be provided, and lists of other successful color combinations will be given as well.  All patterns tied will be primarily tied in one of my top colors or styles, but as stated earlier, other hot color combinations will be discussed and recipes for them will be provided.
Materials To Bring
  • Vise, bobbin, whip finish, scissors.
  • I’ll supply the threads and materials for the class including hooks etc.  A semi comprehensive list of  pattern variations will be provided to every participant. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Back In The Saddle So To Speak.

The Fruits Of My Efforts..
The creative gene has reared its head once again. Maybe it's been the weekly text messages or phone calls with good friend and fellow tier, Mike Schmidt of Anglers Choice Flies. Or maybe it's the balance I have created for myself giving me some free time to conjure up more interesting and productive stuff. What ever it is, good things have surfaced thus far. If you've been following, I am selling my patterns once again, currently on my terms only right now, ( weekly fly selections) with the store front to open up soon (promise). I have also set forth a few new challenges.
Swamp Thing In Black

You all know about my switch rod pledge, I have also been keenly and quietly sneaking out chasing the vicious swamp donkey, snot rocket, otherwise known as the pike. I am sure with a few of these pictures of parrot sized streamers in hand, some of you may have already figured that one out.

The Three pictures in tandem here are prototypes of my new Pike Slider I call the Swamp Thing. I say prototype, as I just received the right sized irons for these monstrosities. My 1/0 and 2/0 B10s' just weren't cutting it, a hook of 6/0, 8/0 and even 10/0 proportions was needed, and recommended once again by ole Schmidty.
And The Inevitable Color Combo....
Under the hood are two hooks, a shank and lots of synthetic and natural materials. Add 4 foam discs at the head, and you have a fly that darts from side to side and moves more water than a Russian sub. Once I dial this bad boy in I will be sure to put up an action video, as what it has shown thus far is more than promising.

On her first day in the water this rat's nest moved a pile of fish, but was unable to connect the business end in the maw of any, hence the need for arger hooks. Beware though, this fly isn't for the faint at heart, as my 8 weight S4s was creaking on every cast. This is pure 10 weight stuff here folks, coming in at a mere 8-9 inches on a good day, this fly will tempt up the big guns from below.
Stroli Sculpins Ready For Some Collars And Heads

But back to the orders folks. I spun up a few selections in the last couple weeks and they sold in hours. I think I found my niche and will keep my "Groupies" satiated weekly with fly selections. Here are a few pictures of a recent streamer order as asked by a very good customer of mine who has caught the streamer bug.

When asked to spin up a selection of some of my favorites, I of course had a selection of some of my concoctions and a few household standbys. Being forewarned that he already had some cougars, circus peanuts and the like, I opted to conjure up a healthy serving of some of my own patterns, and one of a good friends.
Smattering Of Various Streamers
In the past few months I have added I have added a pattern that has just been lights out for me, so I had to spin up a few for my faithful customer. Mike if you read this and see the picture to the left, you probably recognize your Red Rocket on the bottom of that pile. The tan and olive versions of this fly have become two articulated patterns that I just can't leave home without. If you are looking to get you some from the creator of this stellar pattern, checkout Mike's site listed in the beginning of this post, you'll be happy that you did. If You do read this buddy, I did you proud, as my imitations are to the recipe....

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hatch Reels An Honest Review

The 4 Plus, Trout Town Workhorse
Unlike other gear reviews floating around on the net, I choose to wait a while before I review any of the products  I use.  It's only fair to the reader, I mean think about it, if you put a review up based solely upon your excitement for a new gadget that you haven't even used yet, are you really giving a true and honest assessment? 

I use the same approach with fly design about 95% of the time.   Most if not all flies you see have been put to the test.  So, I figured it would be fitting to give my honest assessment on these reels after they got ridden hard for a season of fishing and guiding.

You could also be biased if you are backed solely by a certain company.  I have seen this many times in the past with some of the reviews that I have had the pleasure or displeasure of reading.   I have been lucky enough to have tested, fished and handled all kinds of new products over the past 10 years.  I will be the first to tell you, yes I am on the Hatch Pro Staff.  Am I biased?  Absolutely.  I jumped ship from another very reputable reel company this past year as a result of getting to fish one of these fine reels.  And the truth is,  I never looked back.  To leave another company in the dust after 6 years says a lot, in fact it speaks volumes.  And these bad boys are 100% American Made.
 Over the last year I have heard a mixed bag of both positive and negative feedback about Hatch reels.  Most who own a Hatch, say that they are hands down the sweetest reels out there.  Non-owners complain about the high price tag, and that they are too heavy.   Although both points are arguable, I'll give you my take on both, with a little bit of comparison put in for some perspective.  I am going to base this solely around the 4 Plus model  as this is my primary trout reel right now, and fits into the overall trout category, I.E. 4-6 weight line capacity category. 

For comparison purposes, I picked two reel companies that I personally think are some of the most popular with trout guys in my neck of the woods, if not across the country.  I see reels from both of the comparison companies the most on my home waters.   The companies I am referring to are Ross and Waterworks Lamson, with two models from each.  For Ross, I chose the Evolution LT #2(own one) and the new F1 #2.  From Waterworks Lamson I chose the Litespeed #2 and ULA SL #2 (owned and fished both models, although they are predecessors of the current ones)  Here are the categories and the comparisons:

Hands down the least expensive is the Ross Evolution LT #2  at $285,  edging out the Litespeed by a mere $14.   The next in line was the ULA SL at $419, the 4 Plus Hatch at $450 and then the Ross F1 at $475.  Although the 4 Plus isn't the most expensive, coming in at only a mere $25 cheaper than the F1, it is still a high priced reel in all respects.  Here's my take, you get what you pay for, more on this later in the review, but as you can see it isn't the most expensive reel in it's class but definitely on the higher side.  I will say this, you are getting more than a trout reel here folks, although this reel is rated for a 4-6 weight rod, there are what I call "x-factor" positives with this reel.  You have the option of either a large arbor or mid arbor spool for all hatch reels, something that isn't a standard option with many other companies.    This gives you the option for more backing or the option to run lines for a  4-8 weight series of rods on one reel.  So in theory, if need be, you could use this particular reel for 4 different sets of rods.  The other "x-factor" is the Pulse and Monsoon  spools are fully interchangeable, so if you are in a pinch, as long as the model number is the same (4 plus for example) they will all work together.  BONUS!

The second category I will delve into briefly  is the overall weight of the reel.  For some reason these days, lighter is better amongst most anglers.  I personally have differing opinions in that category, although the new age "euro-nympher" (high sticker in my book) prefers a lighter rig.  That's a topic of it's own, I will say this,  a lighter reel doesn't always combat fatigue, balance typically does, but for the purposes of this review let that be decided by the consumer/fisherman. Whatever....

So, the lightest out of the group once again goes to Lamson, with the ULA SL coming in at a mere 2.95 ounces.  At a distant second is the Lamson Litespeed at 3.8 ounces, Ross Evolution LT at 4.2 ounces, the Ross F1 and 4 Plus last at 5.6 ounces.  Although the heaviest, 5.6 ounces really isn't heavy in my book.   In fact, from my experience, the lightest 3 reels when put on rods of 9 or more feet in length end up being tip heavy, as the rod tip will typically bury to the ground when held in hand.  This phenomenon will actually cause fatigue as the angler who may be "high stick fishing" will have to constantly hold the rod up to prevent the tip from falling to the water.  With a balanced rod and reel combo this is less apt to happen.  I have put my 4 plus on rods from 9-11 feet in length and they balance perfectly, right in the handle.   Enough said.    
The Reel Apart

No Screwed In Reel Seats Here....
So let's get down to the meat and potatoes of the reel.  Let's start out with the options, 5 color combos for starters.  4 in a clear finish with colored insets, and one black with a clear inset allowing the buyer to match their reel nicely with just about any of the rods on the market.  All of the models not just the 4 Plus have Type II anodizing making a nice rugged finish.   As you can see the reel has very few working parts, the reel seat is even machined out of the same solid piece of aluminum as the frame.   These reels are pieces of engineering art, but are also extremely functional and rugged enough to take a beating.  A simple turn of the knurled spool knob and the spool is detached from the frame.

A quick peak inside and you see very little.  A colored end cap that has a gear shaped top, that sits snug into the spool as one cohesive unit.  Inside that colored cap is the sealed internal drag that sets these reels apart from the pack.  That's right, sealed drag, that means no problems with anything getting in the way of the reel performing to standard.  

Closer Look At The Sealed Drag
Hatch uses a unique drag system, which they refer to as a "Stacked" disc drag incorporating steel and rulon together.  In short, a stacked drag system has equal pressure on both sides of the discs which in turn has even wear and is self lubricating.  So what does all this mean?  Three things, straight from the guys at Hatch;   1.  " More surface area makes for a smoother, more durable drag and virtually eliminates start up inertia.   2.   Heat distribution occurs over multiple surfaces, rather than one to one contact, thereby eliminating stick slip problems caused by extreme heat in high-speed runs.   3. Disc materials require NO lubrication or maintenance".  That's right, you read it, no maintenance.  No changing of cork, or rubber pads every other year, no greasing or cleaning of any gears, no synthetic parts that fail after a season, nothing.  Spool up your line and go, and go hard.

The Inside View Of The Spool
Exterior View Of The Spool With Spool Release Knob
That being said, here's my experience with this reel this past season.   I've had several clients drop these reels, both on hard and soft surfaces like sand, gravel, pavement, concrete, rocks, etc.  They may have a small scratch here and there but they work the same as the day I first spooled them up with backing and line.  If a little sand gets in between the spool and frame, no sweat.  Twist the spool knob till the frame and spool separate, shake them back and forth in the river your standing in real quick, snap the spool back in place and boom your good to go.  I have had grit and grime issues stream side with other reels, and they were virtually useless afterwards, typically ruining a good day on the water, not the case here folks.   These babies take a licking and keep on ticking, to date I have not had a single problem with all 6 of my Hatch Reels.  Like the day I first got them

Knurled Drag Knob
Just to give you an idea of how you can outfit yourself with these reels, read on.  For trout fishing I have 3 4 Plus's  like the one in the pictures in this review.  The beauty of this reel is with a few different spools both large and mid arbor, I am using the same frame for my 4,5,6 and 7 weight rods.  So with this one reel, I can fish for a wide variety of species, trout, bass, carp and pike for starters.  The 5 Plus I use, I consider my other   work horse, I spooled that bad boy up with all of my integrated lines on mid arbor spools.   A floater, intermediate, 150, 200, 250 and 300 grain integrated streamer lines, even a 6, 7 and 8 weight line for the steelhead, pike and carp just like the 4.  The 7 Plus I have, is my primary reel for all of my saltwater needs, one reel, a couple of spools, and all of my surf and flats needs are met.  Then there is the 9 Plus that I teamed up with two mid arbor spools for all of my two handed rods.   I have a separate diameter running line on each spool for  my switch rod and spey applications.  The reel has been voted by many notable people in the two handed realm, including the modern day guru, Simon Gawesworth, as "The" reel for any two handed rod under 14 feet.

So in closing, I look at it like this, if you want to buy a reel for your next fly rod, or one to outfit your arsenal, you have a lot of choices out there.  If you are willing to shell out a few more bucks and buy not just a reel, but a work of art and an investment, then spend your money on a Hatch, they are arguably one of the best reel investments you will ever make.  They not only look sweet, they work hard and won't let you down, besides, you get what you pay for.  

For more on these works of art, check them out at

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Some More Things To Keep In Mind....

 So if you were wondering where my focus aside from family is these days, read on.   I have come to the conclusion that with all that is going on in my life, I needed to sit back, reassess, and come up with a new game plan for the time being.

The guiding portion of the business unfortunately is going on the back burner till further notice.  On the flip side of things the fly store will be back
 shortly.   I will be primarily tying and selling flies once again, things on that front should be back online in a month or so.  Once I get the bulk of my kitchen remodeling project behind me, the store will be back up and orders will be taken.  Aside from that, I plan on setting up a separate section on the store for my fellow tyers who are having some difficulty finding some of the rather unique materials I often use.
 If all goes as planned, some of those requested and hard to find materials will be for purchase on the storefront.  Like most things, it will be an every expanding work in progress so please bear with me, I am remind you a one man operation.  From the pictures attached the clever folk will probably figure out some of the materials I plan on having for my faithful tying contingent.  Trust me,

 I understand fully how frustrating it can be trying to find that mystery ingredient for a special pattern, hopefully I can assist.   On a side note, I will be offering two Fly Tying Courses this Fall and Winter, hosted at Upcountry Sportfishing.

One of the courses will be solely based upon some of my Go-To Farmington River Flies, and the other on Several methods of Articulating Streamers.  Once the curriculum and dates are ironed out, be sure to check back here or the Upcountry website to register.  . 
Both Classes will be a one day 4-6 hours event with a limited number of seats, so first come first served.  Once they are all gone I will see if the need for a second class will be announced.   The cost will probably be around $75, so it won't break the bank, and I promise you will walk away a better tyer.

The purpose of my transition aside from the obvious is to hopefully put some of my top flies in your hands to catch more fish like the one to the left here, and develop more cutting edge fish catching patterns.    Stay tuned folks, things are cooking....

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Some Experimentation

Micro Tube With Some New Materials

Same Flies, And Others Under UV Light...
So there is a time and a place for just about anything, especially in fly fishing.   I know these days, bigger seems to be better when it comes to streamers, and many of the newer patterns out there are pushing the envelope in all sorts of directions in terms of materials, size, movement, articulation etc.  Sometimes, the smaller stuff can be the ticket, and like all of us from time to time we have the tendency to forget about things we once did.  Small streamers can really change a day of a thousand casts into a day of many fish. 

Fishing with a two handed rod, even for trout has made me switch up my plan of attack on the river.  I have found that more often than not, a smaller pattern in the round will outproduce the larger jointed nasty deals that I myself am very fond of.  Combine that with some really practical new products courtesy of Hareline, and I am finding all kinds of simple productive patterns affixed both to smaller tubes and on barbless streamer hooks. 

See if you can figure out the direction I am going with this...

Switch Rod Victim....

There are many methods one can employ with the switch rod, this isn't merely a 1/4 downstream cast, swing step set up.  Although I have been limiting my tactics on occasion to swung and stripped streamer concoctions, I am finding that dry fly, wet fly and of course nymph tactics are very practical on these rigs.  Here is just a short sampling of what I have been playing around with lately. 

Stay tuned, some fresh new videos are on the horizon......

Blog Archive