The Rebuild Raft & Maiden Voyage

A couple of months ago I fell into a very old raft that was rotting away in a field. There were holes all through the raft, 5 snakes living inside the old rubber, nests of bees around the NRS frame, and Cataract Oars that were worn down to bare fiberglass. It was junk, but it was a boat. And it’s now my boat with a new life.

A little character that was easily replaced with stainless hardware.

Over the last month or so, I invested a majority of my time replacing hardware, parts, and fixing what broken things I could. It would not have been possible without the help of friends and family that are a lot more handy than I am. From several accounts, I think this boat was originally somewhere around 10 years old.

After fixing up the frame, refinishing the oars, and purchasing a new AIRE Tributary 13 HD raft this boat has a new life. It was a lot of work, and the boat has a ton of character. But, there’s something about a little hard work on a boat with character that helps produce good vibes and mojo.

Andy puttin’ the first fish into the raft on its maiden voyage.

Early this week, Andy and I took her out for the maiden voyage. It was a day of good fun, and I can tell the mojo is off to a good start because we somehow managed to land the expected trout, a couple smallmouth bass, and even one largemouth bass. This raft is already off to an interesting ride.

A smallmouth is always a pleasant surprise for river rats like us.

Initially, I’m really impressed with the set up. I’ve fished out of plenty of drift boats, pontoon rafts, jon boats, and even a Towee. But, having never fished out of a 3 man raft before, I was a little skeptical of what I was getting myself into. I’ll wait until I’ve spent more time on the water to give a full review, but if first impressions hold true I’m in love.

So far, my buddies are taking full advantage that I am more interested in rowing them down the river than actually fishing myself. And who could blame them.

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Tailwater Road Trip

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Gettin’ lost in the fog on the West Branch.

A little over a week ago, Austen and I jumped in the car for 4 hours to check out the West Branch of the Delaware. As with most of our adventures, it was a last minute throw some plans together type of thing. It was supposed to rain like hell in our area that weekend, so we decided to dodge it by checking out what’s probably one of the largest fishing destinations in the east. For good reason too.

I’m always up for a couple days on the run searching for fish in different water. It seems the crew I run around with is the type where we just get in the car and go. We figure out where we are gonna spend the night when it gets dark, and worry about more important things first, like getting on the water.

I haven’t spent near as much time as I should on the Delaware river system. And that will be sure to change, I fell in love with the area last weekend.

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It’s easy to love a hard fighting rainbow from the West Branch of the Delaware.

Are there a lot of other anglers? Yes. Are the fish really technical and tough to catch? Yes. And, that’s sort of the point. Everyone seems quick to point out that the fish are really tough to catch, and there are a lot of anglers around.

But, there are some other questions that I think are more important. Is the water cold even in the middle of a dog day of summer? Yes, thanks to the tailwater bottom release. Are there large wild trout? Yes, tough to catch, but the opportunity is there for both browns and rainbows. How about hatches? Yes, like most tailwater fisheries, the bugs are awesome. To be able to fish summer Sulphurs in July is like a Pennsylvania fly fisher’s dream.

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Some fish don’t need a caption.

Stream etiquette should be a priority all the time, but on a technical, slower moving river with a lot of anglers around it is absolutely a must. Here is a link to an article posted on Hatch Magazine about drift boat etiquette that was actually written by a guide from the Delaware. There a a bunch of other articles out there on stream etiquette, just use your best judgement.

If your looking for a campground, hotel, or a cold beer check out The Beaver-Del. It’s all of those things that fly fisherman need, and it’s located right along the East Branch. It’s a really nice atmosphere, and the owners were great. Make sure to try the Catskill Brewery Devil’s Path IPA. It’s phenomenal, but one too many might jeopardize those early morning plans to get on the river at first light. Spoken with a bit of experience, possibly…

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A very solid brown Austen caught sippin’ a Sulphur.

Austen and I had an absolute blast on our “tailwater road trip”. I’m already looking forward to getting back up there again. The Delaware River system is definitely worth the hype. It’s also a great option for anglers in Pennsylvania if the water temperatures get borderline in the summer. Go fish.

 

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Summer Bassin’ & Relentless Fly Fishing

Roasted the Boogle Bug, and bent the 8wt in half.

When you and your fishing buddies are all fly fishing guides, it can be challenging to pin a day down on the water together. Yesterday Jake, Andy, and I were able to take a ride down the river for a summer smallmouth session. It was a blast. If you feel like you might be missing out on something, it’s because you probably are. I’m not sure what a summer would be like without river smallmouth floats.

I grew up fishing the river for smallmouth bass with my family and friends. Yeah I know, a lot of people are claiming home water these days. But, I lost my first Mickey Mouse Shakespeare Spincast in the river when I was 3 years old. So there’s that, insert laughter.

Puttin’ in. My idea of a good morning.

Anyways, where I was going with that is I’ve spent a lot of time on the river fishing for smallmouth, but every time I step in the boat with Jake and Andy I learn a thing or two. Whether it’s something about fly design, fish behavior, or a technique, I think it speaks volumes about how dialed in their smallmouth program is on the water they fish.

As I always say, you are only as good as the company you keep. When anglers fish together, they have the opportunity to learn together. But only if they are willing. I love that the anglers I surround myself with are able to question each other, and bounce things off each other in a constructive way. Anglers learning together is one of the things I’ve always loved about fly fishing. Well that, and having one heck of a lot of fun while fishing.

Don’t know the answer, Boogle It.

Yesterday we caught bass a variety of ways, but I pretty much got glued on fishing poppers. It’s sort of like dry fly fishing for trout, except smallmouth don’t necessarily sip, they gulp. And then they bend an 8 weight in half like it’s their day job, because they are river smallmouth and that’s what they do.

From rain, the river has been pretty high so far this summer. Yesterday was the first I’d been out after smallmouth since early spring, and I was glad to spend the day with good buddies. As always, I’m looking forward to many more river days this summer.

If fly fishing for smallmouth is your thing, check out Jake’s website: Relentless Fly Fishing and blog: All Things Fly Fishing. There are years worth of great fly patterns, stories, and photos.

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Tight Line Nymphing: Sighter Diameter

As I stated in a previous article discussing knots on the sighter section of a tight line nymphing leader…

There are many materials and methods for building a sighter into a tight line nymphing leader. A sighter, or section of hi-vis line in a leader, serves as a reference point for anglers to detect strikes. In addition to detecting strikes, it aids anglers with the ability to visualize where their flies are underwater, and how they are drifting. Since strike detection and drift awareness are two of the most important concepts in fly fishing, it makes sense to me that the sighter in a tight line nymphing leader is equally important.

Sighter diameter is yet another element of a tight line nymphing leader to consider. There are many different types of material that could be used to construct a sighter giving anglers many different options regarding diameter, or line size. For example, Rio 2-Tone Indicator Tippet is available is sizes ranging from 1x-4x.  So what diameter, or size, should you choose? Well, that depends.

Incase you are unfamiliar with Rio 2-Tone Indicator Tippet, here is a video from the RIO Products Vimeo with more information about the product.

I think that the biggest deciding factor while choosing sighter diameter is dependent on the size of tippet you fish most often. If you frequently fished 3 or 4x tippet sizes then you would probably want a larger sighter diameter such as 1 or 2x. On the other hand if you frequently fish 5 or 6x tippet sizes you may want a smaller sighter diameter such as 3 or 4x. For example, I almost always fish Rio 2-Tone Indicator 3x Tippet as my sigher material. Most days on the water I fish with 5x tippet, but I truly want the option to be able to fish 4, 5, or 6x at any given moment. By using a 3x diameter sighter I am able to easily make minor adjustments to accommodate my preferred range of tippet sizes.

Another factor to consider when choosing sighter diameter is water conditions. On larger rivers with heavy riffles, the extra thickness from a larger diameter sighter will be a little easier to see. On smaller streams or in low, clear water a smaller diameter sighter will spook less fish. I know it might sound crazy that a sighter could spook a fish, but on some of the more technical trout streams I’ve watched it happen. I fish a variety of larger rivers and smaller streams, by choosing a 3x diameter sighter I feel as though I am well prepared to fish about anywhere.

Consider tippet size and water conditions while choosing a diameter for the sighter in a tight line nymphing leader. Basing your decision upon these two factors will help you construct a sighter that is based upon your own specific needs.

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Fly Fishing Cumberland Valley: Yellow Breeches Creek

A brown trout caught in the catch and release section of the Yellow Breeches.

I was recently invited to fly fish Yellow Breeches Creek located in Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania. Even being a Pennsylvania angler that fishes hundreds of days each year, I had never casted a line on any of the historic trout streams of Cumber Valley.

Yellow Breeches Creek, or Yellow Breeches, is a well-known limestone spring creek that offers a variety of recreational activities to those in the Cumberland Valley area. To fisherman, it’s a well-known stocked trout stream that also has a population of wild brown trout. This weekend, April 1, will be the opening day of trout season which will draw in many anglers to the area.

Similar to Letort Spring Run, it would be impossible to talk about the Yellow Breeches without mentioning the names of anglers that fished in the area such as Ed Shenk, Charlie Fox, or Vincent Marinaro.

Looking upstream on the catch and release section at the confluence of “The Run” and the Yellow Breeches.

The mile long regulated catch and release section that runs through Allenberry in Boiling Springs is very popular among fly fisherman. There is talk of the possibility of a stream improvement project, and many other big things going on at the Allenberry Resort. More information on the Allenberry Resort can be found on their recently designed website. In all honesty, the Allenberry Sticky Bun’s are alone worth a trip to the Yellow Breeches.

A sign displayed at the parking lot near “The Run” where anglers can also access the Yellow Breeches.

There are many different sections of the Yellow Breeches to fish, but Boiling Springs is a very neat little town to get started in if you are new to the area. The outflow from Children’s Lake, or “The Run”, is another popular fishing area regulated as a catch and release section adjacent to the Allenberry catch and release section.

A couple of the many ducks that can be found on Children’s Lake in Boiling Springs.

Located along Children’s Lake, and very close to the catch and release sections is TCO Fly Shop of Boiling Springs. TCO Fly Shop has more than everything you would need for a day of fly fishing, and consists of a staff that is very passionate and knowledgable about fly fishing the local area.

The Yellow Breeches is a beautiful, medium-sized trout stream that offers anglers a number of different hatches. Hendricksons should be a significant hatch this week as the weather warms up. I saw a couple of Hendrickons while I was fishing the other day. There are many hatches on the Yellow Breeches throughout the year to keep your eye on such as Blue Winged Olives, Grannoms, Sulphurs, White Flies, Tricos, Terrestrials, etc.

There are plenty of places to access the Yellow Breeches, but there are also some sections of private landowner properties. It will be important to be conscious of these private properties and respect the rights of private landowners. Treating private landowners with respect and not leaving behind trash is the best way to ensure that properties remain open for public fishing.

Since the opening day of trout season is not until April 1, this week I fished the catch and release sections that are open to fishing year round. It was a very nice day on the water, and I look forward to revisiting it and other sections of the Yellow Breeches in the future. Pennsylvania has many miles of trout water to offer, but I think the Yellow Breeches is a special place that all fly fisherman should experience.

For more information about fly fishing in Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania visit the Cumberland Valley Visitor Bureau.

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