The Rats Nest

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Nothing Better To Do On A Rainy November Day

I could have braved the masses like the rest of the holiday shoppers; long lines, complete disregard for others, mad dashes in parking lots for the closer spots; but I didn't.

 I could have sat on the couch, stuffed my face gluttonously with more of the left overs from a Thanksgiving feast, adding to the that ever growing winter waistline; but I didn't.

 I could have spent the day raking those leaves that continue to blow over onto my lawn from the neighbors oak trees, curse those bloody trees; but I didn't. 

I could have painted that molding that has taken its fair share of abuse over the years that is staring me in the face every day; but I didn't.

 I could've went out on the Farmington  River for the day and joined the masses of people who like myself had the day off and wanted to tangle with a trout or two.  The day prior a few of my friends mentioned the river was pretty crowded; but I didn't.

Instead I decided to break out the glass rod, strap it to my backpack and head out with a friend on a hike to a small blue line, and hopefully touch a few of those wily little natives that I cut my teeth on as a kid.  I can't think of a better way to spend a mild wet day in November, and I am thankful that I made the right choice.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Flycraft Stealth Kickstarter Cyber Monday Deals Coming.

You all know my fondness for my Flycraft Stealth, it has become my single favorite piece of gear hands down in the last season.  Well Ben and Brandon are launching something special on Monday, here's a few pictures to get you excited.  More to follow on Monday.  For now, have a happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 23, 2015

First 100 Book Release Special. ***SOLD OUT!!!!!*****

January 1 Is Quickly Approaching....
So, to kick things off for the soon approaching book release, I have put together a nice little package of goodies. To make the first 100 books special, they will not only be signed and numbered, but you will also get a generous sample package of materials from the Flymen Fishing Company, Partridge of Redditch hooks, a selection of some of the flies seen in the book tied by yours truly, a new Catching-Shadows Logo sticker,  and a custom Catching Shadows Logo koozie to hold your favorite beverage while you read the book. For all of you interested in this kickoff, email me HERE, and I will get you the particulars on the pricing.  SOLD OUT!!!!!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Latest Tying Video, The Highlighter Ant.

Trout Love Sipping Ants Whenever They Are Readily Available.
Feels good to be back on a roll with things here, hopefully if all goes as planned I can keep this up for a while.  As a result of my last post, I received several inquiries on the ant pattern in one of the photos.  As luck would have it,  I have new video on that very pattern detailing the flies construction.  A while back you all might recall the Tiny Dancer Caddis Pupa video for our local favorite and beloved hatch of winter caddis.

The Tiny Dancer Pupa Was The Inspiration For the Highlighter Ant
The pattern was primarily designed as an alternative for when the trout got a bit picky and would refuse the old foam emerger that has become an absolute staple in the flyboxes of many.  The dancers construction was built around the premise of an extended foam body via the use of the J. Son extended body pins; a rather genius device that allows for the relatively easy construction of extended body flies.
More Movement Rich Goodness Here.

Well, the Highlighter Ant came to fruition largely in part as a result of staring at the Tiny Dancer one afternoon, and recognizing that with a few modifications, I actually had one heck of a nice ant pattern.  We all know that ants and various other terrestrials can often be very prolific accessory insects that trout will habitually key in on at various times of the year.  Late summer and early fall after a rain, winged ants will take flight almost like clockwork and several will wind up on the surface of our waterways.  Trout will typically key in on them and gorge on these little morsels as they are easy pickings once they fall they are caught in the water.  Often, the emergence's occur anywhere from 6-48 hours after the last of the rains have subsided and things begin to dry out.
Watch The Video HERE.

My hook of choice is the Partridge Caddis Pupa, and I tie this particular pattern in sizes ranging from 14-18.  Although it will not cover those often minuscule sized ants in the 20-28 range, it will however cover just about anything else roughly 75% of the time.  And, as usual, don't let a smaller sized emergence of ants deter you from casting something a shade larger in stature, as this guy will often  fool a fish or two even when the naturals are smaller.  My favorite size is hands down the 18, but tie a few up for yourself and figure  out what works best for you.  You can easily omit the wing in the tying process to account for those  wingless ants you encounter, but if your like me, I have a fondness for fishing ants with wings more so than fishing those without.  Enjoy the video and throw a few of these in your box for next season, I am fairly certain that you will be happy that you did.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Winter Small Fly Tying And Fishing Tips.

It's Small Fly Season, Simple Bugs Are Often The Most Productive
I recently read some interesting questions posed by fellow anglers regarding the loss of trout on the hook-set while fishing with smaller flies (size 20 and smaller).  Seeing as how we are in the midst of the "Small Flies" season for those looking to match the hatches for trout, I figured it would be beneficial to pass along some knowledge that was shared with me while targeting trout keyed in on smaller fare.  I will add, there is nothing more frustrating than losing fish after fish and you can't seem to understand why.  Often, smaller flies can be the culprit,  so here are a few tips that should lessen the likelihood of lost fish and put a higher percentage in the net.

Simply Off-setting The Beak Can Increase Your Hook-ups Exponentially

1.  Off-Set The Hookpoint:
Even if you are a buyer and not a tyer, this little tidbit is probably the one thing that will decrease the number of fish you lose after the hook-set.  A wise old man once taught me this lesson while fishing a hatch of small olives, kinda like the one's currently hatching.  You see, I too was fooling fish but unfortunately dropping most of them within seconds after the take; 1-3 for every 10 trout hooked is a pretty abysmal situation.
A Slightly Off Set Beak Can Make A Huge Difference.
 This can be a rather maddening affair, and my older and wiser neighbor fishing upstream of me noticed my frustration as I sat on the bank losing yet another trout on the hook-set.  What he showed me was simple yet effective.  Light bulb moment, hey why didnt I think of that?  By simply grabbing your fly in your forceps and slightly bending the shank a mere 5-10 degrees, you off set the hook point and open up the hook gap, thus increasing your hooking capability.  You can also do this after you tie the fly in your vise if you tie your own; something I do with many all of my smaller flies now.  There are even some hooks available that come with an off-set point.  
Even On This Small Size 18 Ant Pattern, The Hook Has Ample Space For Hooking Fish
2. Tie With Larger Gap Hooks:
If you tie your own, try using a light wire scud style hook or any style wide gap hook for starters.  Often many of the smaller hooks on the market with a standard 1/2 the shank length hook gap are often too small, especially once you get down to those sizes smaller than a 20.  I often will use scud or caddis larva/pupa style hooks for my smaller imitations, just to get ample hook gap in my flies.  Some of my favorite hooks are the Partridge Caddis Pupa (seen in all pictures in this post), TMC 206-BL and the TMC 2487-BL.  Any of these hooks are fine choices for smaller imitations and will hold up well even with fish in excess of 20 inches. 
A Simple Thread Bodied BWO size 18, On An 18 Partridge Caddis Pupa Hook.
3.  Tie Shorter Versions On Same Hooks:
Once you find a hook you like, use it for a variety of sizes.  Sounds pretty simple, but it is an often overlooked idea.  Compare the two pictures, the fly above is a  size 18 tied on a size 18.  The one below is the same hook and pattern just tied shorter to represent a size 22-24.  Trust me it works, give it a shot next time you're tying up a bunch smaller bugs.
Same Fly Tied Short On The Same Hook.  Now A size 22-24. 
4.  Countdown Before You Trout Set:
Sometimes, especially when fishing midge pupa in the film, the takes are rather light and methodically slower than those splashy caddis rises of the spring.  That being said, it pays to slow down your hook-sets.  Often counting to yourself in your head before raising up on the rod will equate to more hooked fish.  When I transition to fishing smaller surface imitations I habitually miss the first few takers every season, and I have to remind myself to Slowwww down.  This not only works for smaller imitations but also when trout are doing those lazy head, dorsal and tail rises in the slack waters during the thick of a hatch.  Take your time, count "one-one thousand" in your head and then raise up on that fish to come tight.

So, off set those beaks, tie up a variety of sizes on the same size hooks and slow your hook sets down while out there matching hatches this fall and winter and you surely will put many more fish in the net.  Have fun out there.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Guide Flies

Simple flies are the bread and butter and workhorses for most guides.  There is nothing a guide wants to do less of after a long day guiding on the water than spending several hours at night at their vises grinding out a pile of flies for the next days trip.  Over time, most guides develop or borrow a number of patterns that fall into the category of guide flies; simple, effective patterns that take maybe a couple of minutes to tie.
Learn How To Tie The Rats Nest HERE.

Most guide flies in the trout realm will habitually fall into the category of nymphs, but any type of fly be it a streamer, dry or wet fly can fit into this category.  What is also a great byproduct of their simplicity in design is you most certainly won't feel that bad if you or your client make an errant cast into the bushes, hang bottom or lose one on a good fish.  Well, minus that last example.

The Rats Nest is a fly that slides into the guide flies category nicely.  Crane fly larva are an often very overlooked food form for trout, especially when the water has risen as these morsels will habitually get kicked into the drift.  They are nothing more than a midge larva on steroids so replicating them is rather easy.  The Rats Nest however is more than a weighted nymph pattern.  You see this simple tie has an alter ego of sorts as she can easily be manipulated like a streamer with great success.  I will often tie one of these on by itself or trailing behind another larger streamer when the bite is rather slow and the Rats Nest will always save an otherwise tough day.  Tie a few up and add them to your rotation.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Chinese Dragon Tying Video Now Live.

As promised, I have gotten back to some tying video production (albeit crude but information packed hopefully).   I figured I had better start with a big one, just to get it out the way, plus I did promise it to you back in June; it's now November.  Oops.  At any rate, here is the cousin to the Hog Snare, the Chinese Dragon.  Now, I don't claim this to be a quick tie, the video is roughly 20 minutes long, mostly due to my narration, but in all actuality this fly should take you about 1/2 as long to tie compared to a Hog Snare, so in essence, it's pretty quick for a 3 sectioned streamer.
Watch The Video HERE.

I like this fly because of it's swimming action in the water, one that not only emulates real prey, but also because she  just shimmy and kicks around precisely how I intended her too based upon her construction.  You can knock out the shanks and add a rear hook and downsize the front and you have one hell of a nice and quick trout streamer too.  If there is any interest, I may show a video on that down the road.
A Torn And Tattered Chinese Dragon In The Mouth Of A Pure Killing Machine

So, in closing, here is one of my favorites to fish for pike even though she may not be the simplest quickest tie, she surely gets the job done.  Enjoy my friends, this one has gotten it done for Northern's, tiger musky and straight up musky so the proofs in the pudding.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Drought-like Conditions, A Few Proven Tips For Success

Low Water Exposes Areas That Are Usually Hidden In The Spring

This fall, we are experiencing what is usually the norm for northeastern river conditions.  Low, skeleton like boulder strewn rivers that are a fraction of their normal capacity, exposing areas that are typically under water.  These types of conditions can make for difficult and often wary fish.

No matter what your preferred method of angling may be; dry flies, nymphs, wets or even streamers, stealth and a planned approach to the water are paramount for success.  Even though the insects of fall heading into winter may be a mere fraction of the size of their cousins of spring and summer, fish can still be had on larger fare if you know how to target the correct water.  Here are a few tips that should help in tipping the odds in your favor whenever you are faced with low clear conditions in the fall.

1.  Wear Drab Clothing: 
Whenever fishing I often try my best to wear clothing that closely matches the foliage that I may encounter.  In the fall, once the leaves are stripped from the trees, a majority of the trees and bushes on my home waters are often a shade of gray to olive.  Wearing muted earth tones are often beneficial and can help you maintain a stealthy approach, especially if you walk slowly and do your best to blend in with the foliage that lines the banks.  I am a big advocate of the river camo line of clothing by Aqua Designs, in fact many of you may have seen pictures of me wearing a few of their shirts throughout the season.  You may not have to go that far, but if it helps you blend into your surroundings, it is more often than not a helping hand.  Remember, a trouts vision is reflected in a cone as a result of the waters surface and their window of vision is much greater than just overhead.  Some models depict that the blind spot for a trout at 6 meters from their position is roughly 1 meter high.  So in theory if you are 6 feet tall, than just less than half of your upper body is visible to the fish.  Remember, that is only applicable if you are standing on ground that is equal to the surface of the water.  More often than not, the banks of the river are higher in respect to the surface of the water so in theory even at a distance of 6 meters your entire body may very well be visible to the trout.
Big Fish Will Still Eat Big Flies In Low Water, Choose Your Target Water Wisely

2. Stay Out Of The Water:
This may not be feasible on all watersheds, but if at all possible try your best to stay out of the water under low water conditions.  Trout can sense the erratic motion of injured prey as a result of their lateral line.  What they can also sense with their lateral line is the movement of something that could be perceived as a threat to their well being.  If you are an aggressive wader, you might want to work on your footwork as errant steps or pushing wakes will most likely alert the fish in the stretch of water you intend to fish.  It doesn't take much to send giant vibrations through a soft pool of water, and remember, they travel like sound waves for fish.  This may be more detrimental to those who are targeting surface feeding trout, but  I will take it a step further and surmise that it can adversely effect trout feeding in a variety of ways under low conditions.  Remember, when the river is a fraction of its normal capacity, the volume of water is greatly reduced and the areas that hold fish may very well be  one quarter to one half their normal depth.  In short, whenever possible, stay out of the water, or wade cautiously and methodically.

3.  Ditch The Spikes:
To build upon the last paragraph, do yourself a favor and drop the spikes out of your wading boots.  Now I know, by doing so you will drastically reduce your ability to safely traverse the stream bed, and maybe cause yourself to take a swim or roll an ankle.  If you've adopted the concepts in the last paragraph, you will be forced to wade much more methodically with the lack of spikes on your boots.  Remember, sound underwater is magnified, think about the times you slapped  a pair of rocks together underwater while swimming as a kid and how much sharper and louder that sound was as opposed to doing the same on the beach.  Think how far those grinding sounds of your tungsten spikes are traveling under water every time you step on a rock.  In many cases you are most likely not only alerting every fish in the pool you are stepping into, but also those that inhabit the water in the adjacent runs up or down river.   Where ever regulations allow, I will wear straight felt bottomed soles, as they will provide much less noise underwater.  Rubber soled boots are equally as effective, but are exponentially more difficult to wade a river that is made up of rocks.  

4.  Fish From A Downstream Position:
Like #2, this too may not always be a feasible option, but whenever possible I try my best to approach and fish a section of water from a downstream position.  Unless presented with a swirling back eddy, fish in a river will be positioned facing upstream into the current as it is the path by which food will be presented to them.  The cone of vision for a trout is drastically reduced towards their tail as they have eyes that are positioned on the sides of their head unlike some other species of fish.  In theory, you can actually get much closer to a trout when approaching from the rear, especially if you heed the tips laid out above.  Granted, this may not always be the case, and is only as true as the level of conditioning that your rivers fish might have to anglers.  There are a slew of other variables that come into play, a few off the top of my head are whether your river is primarily a stocked or wild fishery for starters.  Wild fish are less tolerable of anglers then those raised in a hatchery in general, allowing you less room for error.  Fishing from a downstream position may require more precise and well placed presentations, so concentrating on presenting your patterns with finesse will usually equate to a greater level of success, especially if you are fishing to surface feeding trout.  Nothing trumps presentation in my book, and if you up your game by working on presenting your flies with precision and efficiency, your overall game will benefit in the long run.

5.  Drop Your Tippet Size:
I am of the school of thought that presentation is far more paramount to fishing success than fishing lighter tippet, but under low, clear water conditions this mentality is moot.  Always fish the heaviest tippet that will allow you to catch fish.  When the water is lower, that may very well be a size of tippet smaller than what you are accustomed to.  Typically, I find that one size smaller than my norm will suffice and get me back catching fish again.  If my  tippet size under normal conditions for surface oriented fish is 5x, then I will drop it down to 6x under lower conditions.  If the insects are smaller which they often are in the fall, then I may go a step further.  Fluorocarbon is another option that can help as well, and I am a strong advocate of its use when fishing nymphs or wet flies.  I will typically shy away from fluorocarbon when fishing dry flies, but in times of lower water it can sometimes be a difference maker.

I hope these simple tips are beneficial to some of you this fall, and remember, they not only apply to fall conditions, but whenever the rivers are lower than normal.  Like most of my posts, just add water and enjoy your time out there this fall. 


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