Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Fly Patterns

My Fly Patterns
 Due to the abundance of snow, icy streams and freezing weather, in North Western Pennsylvania, I haven’t been fishing much. In reading my blogs I figured some of you might want to see instead of just hear about the flies I use. About 98% of the fly pattern I use I tie myself. About the only flies I don’t tie, that I use now and then, are articulated patterns and egg patterns.

Until the icy weather conditions warm up and the creeks return to fishable waters, I plan on showing some of the patterns I use and their ingredients. Some of the patterns I included a web page to where you can find a tutorial of how to tie the fly.

Latex Caddis(my #1 go to caddis larva/pupa when nothing is going on and i want to catch fish!!)
tutorial at;

hook; mustad c49s curved caddis #14 and #12

thread; brown*
weight; .010 lead wire
body; latex strip
thorax; brown rabbit fur*
tint; olive green or limepeel prisma color marker (optional)
note * use black thread if making thorax out of black fur

olive caddis tinted with prisma color marker

Limepeel with black thorax

DT Albino Stonefly(doesn't catch a ton of fish but will catch trout where other patterns fail)

hook; 3x curved #10 or #12 (#10 pictured)

thread; white #6
tail; two grizzly stripped hackle stems split
lead; matchstick lead cut to length.
rib; mono line 12lb of substitute
abdomen; off white. i mix white with a bit of light yellow fur dubbing
wing case; pale turkey feather section laquared
legs; grizzly hen hackle trimmed top and bottom
antennae; two wood duck flank fibers, split
thorax; same as abdomen

Kaufmann Stonefly; (great go to pattern when the stones are about or not!)

hook: #14 3X long curved

thread: black #6
underbody: .015 lead wrap
tail: black goose biot
rib: clear tippet material. (optional)
abdomen: mixture of black and brown fur dubbing
antenna: black goose biots (optional)
thorax: same as abdomen
wing sections: 2 turkey tail feather sections. laquared and trimmed
head: same as abdomen

Foam Beetle; (#1 go to terrestrial)
tute at;


hook; mustad 94838 #12 2x short
thread; black 3
shell back; black closed foam 3mm
legs: black hackle palmered 1 gauge shorter than hook gap
body wrap; maroon polycryolin or substitute
head; black closed cell foam

Goofus Bug or Humpy; (i have caught smallmouth bass, largemouth bass along with trout on this dry fly)

hook; #10 7957B mustad

thread; orange
tail; deer hair
wing; calf tail upright and divided
overbody; deer hair
underbody; orange floss
hackle; coachman brown (drk ginger or brown hackle substitute)
tute at;

a swarm of goofus bugs with my tied frog popper!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ice Shelves....

Ice Shelves and Self Determination

  I stepped out of the truck and into the several inches of fresh snow that had accumulated on the packed snow beneath my wading boots. It was obvious that Donny and I would have the creek to ourselves throughout the day. It could have been because of the snowy surroundings in this cold mid January Pennsylvania day. Maybe because of the mid 20 degree weather that would sure be a frustration, causing frozen lines and cold fingers. It could be because of the limited access to open creek water. Those are justifiable reasons to stay home and just say no but I haven’t fished since early December and was just about fit-to-be-tied if I didn’t get on the water soon. When Donny called me up Wednesday evening and said he was sure we would be able to catch some steelhead in open water, I was more than willing to give it a try.

 That night I had my steelhead flies, streamers and nymph fly boxes opened upon the dining room table getting them in order. I chap sticked a good portion of my 7wt fly line and leader to help resist the cold water from freezing upon the line. I stacked my gear by the back door ready for the 2 hour morning drive to Erie. Before bed I laid out the layers of warm clothes and socks I would wear for the chilly excursion. I was excited about wetting a line to fish for steelhead but in the back of my mind I knew not to be over enthused because of the hampering conditions to come.

 Outside the truck I immediately felt the frigid air upon my ears and finger tips. I assembled the 9’6” 7wt rod and mid arbor reel. After applying Chap Stick to the rod eyes I put on my Orvis sling pack and followed Donny to the creek bank. Water flowed like a canal between the thick ice shelves that extended from each snowy bank. The water was clear enough to see a few feet beneath as far as we could tell from our position looking down from the creek ledge. The sky was a flat dull gray color without any distinguishing cloud separation. If someone had to paint the sky, on canvas, they could do it simply by one sweep of a paint brush. By now the sun was above us, being it was about 9:30am. It looked like a dim flashlight beam shining down through a dark staircase, a hazy corona surrounding its center of light source.

 Upon entering the shallows, to cross the creek, Donny noticed a nice size steelhead in a foot or so of water. He told me to go for it but I had my hopes up for a larger pod of fish and declined. Besides, I’ve learned that one can spend a lot of valuable time trying to catch one noticeable steelhead in shallow water without ever having him take notice whatever you toss at him, only to finally swim away from the pestering.

 On the creek bank I tied on an articulated stonefly and proceeded to slowly fish my way upstream towards the tunnel. Donny followed with a tandem rig of sucker spawn and a nymph for a dropper. After an hour without either of us getting a hit I entered the tunnel in hopes of getting my first hook up.

 In the tunnel I tied on a Depth Ray stonefly and drifted it under an indicator. Donny soon followed along and stuck with the tandem rig. On one drift I felt the tug of a fish and my cold fingers and temperate blood came to life. I swear I seen the fresh small chrome fighting from its mouth but when I got him closer I somehow snagged him in a pelvic fin. It was either that of my leader got wrapped up around him during the short tug-of-war. I had him close to my hand when the pressure of the bent rod stripped the hook out and the fish tumbled and disappeared beneath. continuing to fish I changed my offering a few times to entice a strike. Donny assured me that there were steelhead in the dark waters. I didn’t doubt his word but they just didn’t want my offerings.

 By the time I got to the end of the tunnel I hadn’t felt any other hits and decided to try a Triple Threat. Maybe, I thought, a slow drifting minnow imitation might get a hungry lethargic steelhead to come for a taste. I stepped off the walkway, against the tunnel wall and onto the stream bed. Slowly I waded to the center of the channeled water, entering the tunnel, and began swinging and slowly drifting the Triple beneath. By now Donny was fishing the mid part of the tunnel water with long, high sticking, drifts. It took me about a half hour before I became board and headed upstream.

 I was about 20 yards up creek from the tunnel working the tail end of a deep pocket when I heard a splash and a call from Donny that seemed to echo out of the tunnel passage. I turned to look just in time to see his bent rod jerk downward before straightening from a lost hook up. I gave him a thumb up than turned it down and chuckled to myself. “At least he’s getting some hook-ups” I thought.

 Eventually Donny caught up with me and stood behind me, on a thick ice shelf, with a thermos cup of hot coffee. I was drifting a new pattern Triple Threat under an indicator in a small slow pool beyond a faster run just before me. The indicator drifted slowly in small whirlpool circles as it made its way down to the tail out. I saw the indicator slow and gently pull under. With a quick rising hook set I felt the first resistance and we began to scuffle. It didn’t take long for me to realize this wasn’t a steelhead at all. With the 7wt rod and 7lb fluorocarbon tippet the small brown trout didn’t have a chance. After a quick picture of my reward and after letting the brown go, I joined Donny for a hot cup of joe.

 Continuing upstream got to be more of the same, nothing doing, for me. After fishing off a thick ice shelf I decided to work my way downstream towards the tunnel. I was about 30 yards downstream from Donny when I heard him give out a holler. Turning I seen the rod bent into the middle as he had the butt in his gut for leverage. I wound in line and started up his way to get a picture of this ‘sure-to-be’ nice steelhead. The fish forced the issue downstream and Donny followed, keeping good pressure on him, until the fish tired. He got the thick shoulder male out of the water and I got the hero picture for his web sight. After he released the steel he went back upstream for another.

 I tried my best for the next 10 minutes or so to get one on but couldn’t produce a strike. Out of boredom I lit up a Macanudo CafĂ© and relaxed a little and enjoyed the peacefulness. The sound of flowing water against downed logs, boulders or slapping against ice shelves was a soothing sound. Geese would be heard honking above as they flew towards there destination. Occasionally I’d have to crush the ice off my fly line but all in all it was a relaxing day out. Time ticked away as I made my way through the tunnel and continued downstream for more open water. Donny followed slowly but I really didn’t pay him any mind. I’m sure if he got a good fish on he would verbally let me know.

 I was familiar with the water way and concentrated, somewhat, in areas I have seen other fishermen during warmer times. Even a novice to the stream would be able to discover where the ‘good’ pools were by the hardware, bobbers, indicators and fishing line hanging from tree limbs over the most productive sections. I continued on drifting my offering along bank-side runs and pocket water as my cigar burnt down to the butt end. I eventually had to soak it in water and pocket it in my sling pack.

 I came to a shallow riffle and looked downstream. I could see an ice jam down below the good stretch of channeled water that ran between thick ice shelves on each side of the shore line. I tied on a bead-head yellow sparkle Meth pattern and to this a dropper of a bead-head White Meth. This was it, this would be the last rig up and I was determined to catch some steelhead before going home. By now it was a couple of hours before nightfall and it must have been getting colder cause the fly line and leader was icing up more often. Now and than a dusting of snow would appear and softly descend, from above, in a windless drift.

 Just below the shallow riffle I stood and decided to add a little more weight because of the some-what faster moving current. I worked my casts and drifts towards the far ice ledge watching my floating fly line atop the water, moving my rod tip with the drift. I laid the tandem rig just off the edge of the shelf and mended upstream so my offerings would be downstream from my leader. I noticed the arc in my fly line slowing down and the tip sinking. I wasn’t sure if I hit bottom or not so I gave the rod tip a nudge and something nudged back. I quickly lifted for the hook set and a fish took off downstream in a heap. Ya, I finally hooked into a steelie, not a biggy, but one none the less. He put up a good fight as I drew him near the ice shelf to my right. Lifting up the steelhead he shook his head hard and sure enough unhooked the white Meth pattern from his lips. No matter, I didn’t care to get my hands wet anyhow; I tried to lessen the upsetting thought of losing the steelhead. I stepped upon the ice shelf to free the line of ice and to mark the spot in the snow from where I caught the fish. I walked back up and stepped down into the riffling water again. Proceeding as I did before I again noticed my fly line stop abruptly. More confident I lifted the rod sharply to drive the point into the fishes lip/jaw more securely. I seen the fish flash beneath and he darted downstream taking line with him. I palmed the reel to slow the youngster down and than played him towards me and up on the ice. He had taken the yellow Meth pattern as the white one dangled behind.

 After releasing him I continued casting my offerings just shy of the far ice edge and worked my way downstream. Within minutes I hooked into another steelhead but he rolled himself free just after I felt resistance.
 I turned upstream and seen Donny headed my way with his fishing rod in one hand and a thermos in the other. When he got within talking distance I told him about my catches and how the steelhead seemed to be hugging just below the far ice shelf ledge. Fishing the ledges, we both hooked up a few more times. Donny had another male on as it showed its body topside before coming undone. I hooked into another small brown but he too found a way off my hook.


 Before long I finally called it quits. Chunks of ice were flowing down more often now and the snow began to fall a little more heavily. I had a couple of hours of driving to do to get back home and felt pretty satisfied with our accomplishments considering the conditions. We stood upon the thick ice shelf and finished off the last of the black coffee before heading to the truck.

 Back at Donny’s house I changed into driving clothes and we bid each other fair well as pals normally do. We’ve fished together for some time now, off and on, and it was good to join up with him again for this outing of solitude steelhead fishing.

 It was dark with snow gently falling when I reached Interstate 90. I sipped on some warm tea I had poured into my cup, before leaving Donny’s, from my own thermos. The roadway was clear of ice and snow as traffic traveled along smoothly. I turned south onto I79 and felt more relaxed as I finished the cup of tea. Reaching over for the Macanudo Robust Collection of three cigars, I received from Kevin, I took out the remaining stogie from the box. The Macanudo Maduro was firmly wrapped in the dark broadleaf and tasted smooth as I moistened the outer leaf with wet lips. I lit the end of the barrel and took a smooth draw. Another just reward after a fine outing that cured my fishing fever that was so much needed.


Donny Stephens is the Charter Capt. of 'A Day Away Fishing Adventures' in Erie pa.
His Business Card is located at the end of this blog.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Young Womans and the Demon

No Buggers (part 4)

Young Womans and the Demon

 Jeff and I left Kettle Creek just after a roadside lunch. The black flies were irritating and there was no sign of any good size hatches going on. The fish we had found earlier were sipping on tiny, tiny midges and spinners in the slow clear water. We hadn’t had luck lifting any so we were looking for somewhere new. Jeff hasn’t ever fished Young Womans Creek so I figured it would be a good choice till sundown. It has more shady areas, to get us out of the hot sun, and we were hoping less flies, therefore making it more pleasant.

 We arrived at Young Womans Creek about 2:30pm under the bright sunny sky. We parked in a shady area but found the humidity was still high. I already had my Hardy Demon rod together, and because of the small stream, hip boots were more appropriate. Jeff assembled his 7’6” rod and we walked to the water.
 The long flat pool before us was calm and clear. A few stockies could be seen practically laying on the bottom as their tailfin swayed easily with the under- current. Pines and tree limbs branched over the water from the steep rocky cliff on the far side. There was just enough room to get a fly underneath the limbs, with a careful side arm cast, back into the deep shaded areas. The cross-current though could create a problem. The current beneath the limbs was much slower than the current mid-stream. I figured a tricky sidearm cast with a quick stoppage of the rod tip should be able to loop a fly underneath, dropping on the surface, and leaving enough slack line behind for a better, drag free, presentation.
 Downstream of the flat water, water rushed over a two tier cement dam wall that spanned across the creek. The water splashing below was constant, giving the otherwise pleasant scenery, an audible dimension that no picture could portray. From there the water flowed above a stony bottom than narrowed and tumbled along a straight run of outcropping rocks. The water made its way pushing against downed branches and finally disappeared into the distant forest. The sunshine enhanced the long narrow stretch giving a glow to the tannish water from the colors of the different stones that lay beneath.
 Upstream, from the flat pool, water rushed around to the outside of a sharp bend of the creek. Water swirled into a deep bowl nearer to our side but also continued to flow along the far bank and around the curvature of the stream against the steep bank. A fast run of current waved against this steep, slate shelved cliff and under overhanging branches. This widened and fed the semi-deep wider section of water before us, to the sandy bank in which we now stood.

 The creek holds your attention continuously in this remote area back off the main drag of human error. It’s simply you, nature, the creek and fish!!!

 Of course every fairytale creek has their dilemmas of the day. For now the muggy humidity fogs up my polarized lenses to render them a distraction so I hung these down on my chest. This is when I noticed the swarm of little flies zigzagging erratically about 2” from my face. You know those pecker flies that follow you, torment you and somehow keep from getting hit when you reach to swat them. They dive bomb into the corner of your eyes like some kind of Kamikaze fly. The darn things won’t land on you so you can squish them; no they just bug the piss out of you flying face side.

 We began fishing in the slow flat water. A couple of fish would rise and inspect our dry fly offering like an antique dealer figuring out if something is real or fake. Needless to say they all found some kind of mar and left our flies alone. After about 20 minutes Jeff gave up and headed upstream. I tied on a Gray Fox pattern and finally coaxed a brookie, from behind a submerged boulder, to strike. It wasn’t much of a fight in the slow pool but it was a trout. After a few more casts I started down stream.

 The glare, from the sun reflecting water, made it tough seeing my dry fly. I tried putting my shades on again but it ended up like I was looking through a dense fog. When I took them back off the pecker flies again started to annoy me. I tried my best, in these conditions, for about a half hour without a take. I got frustrated, waded out of the water and walked back up creek. I found Jeff fishing below the dam.

“I’m taking a break,” I said.
“I’m out of bug spray, my glasses keep fogging up and it isn’t fun with these pecker flies darting in my eyes!” I added squinting!
“I know what you mean” he replied.

 Back at the vehicles I opened my last Michelob Lager as I took off my sweaty shirt and hip boots. After finishing the beer I tilted back the driver’s seat backrest and took a short nap.

 When I awoke I felt refreshed and ready for some evening fishing. Jeff heard me getting ready and he too got his gear on. We were hoping for a hatch or at least some surface activity that would have the trout less cautious. At the long flat stretch we tried midges of different sorts. I finally got a trout to take a beetle in the shade under one of the far overhanging branches. I headed upstream after that to see what I could accomplish as Jeff lagged behind.

 I missed a couple of super quick risers in the fast run against the cliff before connecting with a brown on a March Brown dry. I turned back to see Jeff working the far end of the pool just before the dam. There were 4 or 5 trout rising to midges or possibly something falling from the pine branches. Soon fog rolled in and I got a good view of Jeff standing in the stream looking cloud.
 I noticed Light Cahill’s appearing and tied on a #12 for the narrow deep riffling water above. Casting upstream I missed a flash of a trout in the tail-end of a calmer pool that emptied into a shallow run. Working my way upstream I picked off a nice rainbow between mid-stream and a submerged log against the far bank. On one cast, into a back eddy behind an exposed tree branch snag, my perfect cast got the fly hung up in a spider web, unaware to me at the time. The fly hung there about 8” from the water surface. I gently tugged on the fly line and leader and watched the dry hit the water. In an instant a fish rose to my fly. I quickly yanked back the slack in the line and the fly came whipping back towards me. I ducked to my left and was left with my own spider web of line and fly. The evening light was disappearing and leaving nice shadows upon the water surface. I didn’t have time nor was in the mood to untangle the mess. I snipped off the three sections of knotted leader/tippet and retied new tippet material to the remaining stiff tapered leader. I was able to feel the sweat beading on my forehead though I concentrated on making sure my knots were steadfast.
 Continuing fishing upstream I was missing quick surfacing trout. I shortened my casts and got into better positions for a better angle to outfox the trout. Wading up creek I dropped my #12 March Brown along every seam and slack water I came upon. Just around the next bend a good run of choppy water waved towards the log jam I had just passed. I got sight of a flash and surface splash of a feeding trout near a big round rock aside the far grassy bank. My short Demon 7’ rod wasn’t long enough to reach over mid-stream for a nice high sticking drift. I carefully moved upstream, in the fading light, to get a better angle at the feeding trout.
 He surfaced with lightning speed for something other than my perfect drifting fly on my first four attempts. I switched to a #12 para-yellow stonefly and dropped the fly just shy of the round rock within his sight. I did my best keeping my rod tip high and moving it with the bobbing dry towards the rock. I saw the flash of the fish rise and wristed back on his lightning quick take of the fast moving fly. He head-shook, top water, than submerged and pulled with the current into the deeper water near the bend of the creek. With the rod bent, and the tip pointing straight at the fish, my reel sang a cappella with the outgoing surge of fly line. I knew I would have a hard time getting the weighty fish across the fast current mid-stream so I carefully waded across while fighting the beast against the undercurrent. I moved the 3wt, angling it towards the far bank, trying to keep the trout from heading into the fast water. The Demon flexed and kept good tension on the fighting fish within the bend of the creek beneath the deep eddy. When I made it across the creek and still upstream from him I felt more in charge of the situation. I took in line as he started to swim towards me. He surfaced, as if for a look see, and than the thick rainbow dove beneath and again pulled line through my tensioned fingers to the reel. It was a struggle at times with him and me tugging at one another but I finally managed to bring him up and to the net. I quickly tried taking a picture of the frisky trout under the dim light but he wanted nothing of the sort and struggled in my grasp. With my hemostats I pinched the hook and with a quick twist, I unhooked him from my control. He wasted no time disappearing into the flowing water.

I was well satisfied at this point, and with the near darkness, headed downstream to where I presumed Jeff was. He saw me walking towards him along the bank and took in line and we headed to the vehicles.

 With a refreshing cold beer we took off our fishing gear and got into driving clothes. We reiterated a few of our own escapades throughout the weekend while finishing our brews. After a handshake of good will, we parted company and ventured off in our vehicles.

 I drove through Renova and crossed the bridge, over the WB branch of the Susquehanna, in darkness. At the stop sign I paused long enough to unwrap a big stogie a friend of mine had given me a while back. I concluded that this long fat cigar was appropriate for my long journey home. It would take some time to smoke and should keep me awake, yet relaxed. I lit the end of the ‘Partagas 1845’ dark tobacco barrel and enjoyed the smoke all the way to the Reynoldsville exit off of Interstate 80. It was the longest lasting cigar I ever smoked in my life and surprisingly smooth at that!

I actually completed a whole weekend of fishing without casting a bugger!

The End