If you haven’t heard their is a new invasive species in the Michigan waters, the Mud Snail. In the past two days two new articles have been written about stopping the spread of the Mud Snail. Links are below. Please wash your waders, wading boots, boats and trailers if you plan on fishing different waters this spring and summer.
It’s been over a decade since Bob Linsenman and Kelly Galloup’s “Modern Streamers for Trophy Trout” really took the idea of targeting big trout with big flies to the mainstream. Since then there have been tremendous advances – in gear, in fly design, in knowledge, and in the number of anglers hucking big meal to entice the river monsters out from under the log.
Now a new book from Pennsylvania’s George Daniel has added to the must-read list for the streamer angler. In “Strip-Set: Fly-Fishing Techniques, Tactics, Patterns for Streamers” Mr. Daniel takes all of these advances, mixes them with some insights from some of today’s top streamer purists, and delivers a tool to take your streamer fishing to the next level.
Interestingly, the title topic – strip setting – is mentioned only briefly. As a recent convert to the muskie game, I understand the advantage of the strip set. But it also makes a ton of sense when pursuing trout. Trout-setting only moves the fly away from the fish, adds slack in the line, and generally lowers your odds of a solid hook-up. By contrast, a strip set creates immediate, positive contact. Makes perfect sense! This is but one example of the pragmatic, direct insight that Daniel presents in the book. Can’t wait for this Spring’s big trout hunt! Missed hooksets have been my nemesis in the past.
For years a couple of my friends who are knowledgeable anglers have extolled to “fish the fly, not the line”. In principle, that sounds simple. But what does it MEAN? And how do you actually accomplish that goal? George Daniel delivers that answers at a level that totally changed my thinking and strategy. The book includes extensive discussions of line types – floating, sink-tip, and full-sinking – as well as when to deploy each type.
Another interesting area is his extensive discussion of floating lines. Here in Michigan, we seldom fish streamers on a floating line. It’s generally a sink-tip or intermediate line match to current, depth, etc. At first I thought this to be just a quirk due to the fact the he spends most of his time fishing his native Pennsylvania (though it is clear from his book that he LOVES fishing Michigan) where the waters are typically not as deep. But before long I realized that he was really taking my knowledge to the next level – in some situations, even in deep water, there are significant advantages floating lines offer. This is a recurring theme in this book. There are a lot of tactics that can impact your success; consider them all carefully!
These are but a few of the excellent topics covered in this solid book on the streamer game. Mr. Daniel writes in an engaging style, covers concepts thoroughly but not too extensively, and really addresses the gamut of issues, challenges, and conditions the streamer angler may encounter.
This week I had the opportunity to meet and tie with George Daniel. His personality really reflected the book – straightforward, but with plenty of friendliness and no need for excessive flash. Speaking of flash; his patterns seem incredibly sparse alongside what we’re used to seeing here in Michigan.
I’m eager to put my new knowledge, skills, and insights to work on my next streamer trip! If you’re a streamer angler, put this book on your “must have” list. You won’t be disappointed!
Well, it’s that time of year again. I’ve inventoried my fly boxes and I am scrambling to fill my spring, summer & fall fly boxes for the upcoming seasons, as old man winter starts thinking about taking his nap, I hope! This winter has been full of tinkering with new materials and techniques for favorite fishing, steelhead on the swing. Per usual, I completely forgot to do what I always intend, which is to fill the holes in my boxes from a spring, summer and fall of fishing. Ugh, production tying. Not a fan.
The most enjoyable part of tying for me is the development stage or learning of new patterns. When I sit down to let my mind wander and relax into it’s artistic side & start free styling, my default is steelhead streamers. The array of colors and materials that one could imagine using and attracting this quarry is astounding. So I play with color combos and styles of flies deep into the night while sipping on something brown. Bourbon, rye and scotch being the likely suspects. Sometimes the next day I awake with a headache, grab some coffee and go critique my flies from the night before. The bigger the headache, the more likely it’s “WTF was I thinking!” Sometimes I impress myself and sometimes the razor comes out & the hook is shorn of the monstrosity.
Which begets a question that I hinted to in the title- what are my beverages for tying flies? Sure, whiskey has turned my brain and fingers into madness & what transpired on the vice was abominable, but some nights it’s more about the drink than the tying. Then there are the nights that a neat dram of whiskey is the perfect accompaniment, as a sip every so often soothes my soul and the whiskey’s temperature does not change & some of the resulting flies have found permanent places in my boxes.
So, here’s my guide to what to drink when tying flies. Yours may very as we all have preferences.
- Production/Repetitive tying- I have three schools of thought here…
#1 Drink coffee to keep you rolling and the mind free from the numbing effects of doing a dozens of the same pattern. I know a few guides who really like tying production, as it gives them a “check out time” when they don’t have to think about what they are doing as they done the fly hundreds or thousands of times. Especially the dreaded egg patterns.
#2 Drink water- no better time to hydrate. Until it catches up with you and you spend more time in the bathroom than at the vice.
#3 Drink a low alcohol beer. Think macro brew or old world Pilsener. Pabst has been a fly tying staple for some for many years. Personally, I go with a craft “Session” beer. Short’s “Ale la Reverend” is my favorite when it’s available and Founders “All Day IPA” is good to go all year long and comes in 12 pack cans.
- Dry Flies/Nymphs- kind of falls in to the same category as above. They are not my strong point, so I stick to H2O. Sometimes red wine is a good option. It’s a sipper, doesn’t loose it’s temperature and gets better as the air mixes in and it “opens up”.
- Wet flies/Soft Hackles- tradition would call for a fine dram of Irish or Scotch as these patterns were originally from the British Isles. But be careful, as once you start working on the wet flies with tented or married wings, your fingers and mind need to be nimble. On the other hand, simple soft hackles like the Partridge and Red/Yellow/ Orange that work so well, can be done when a wee bit addled. The other traditional drink that I partake in if it’s summer and I am refilling the Wheatley box would be a tall Gin and Tonic. Nothing says summer like a G&T while tying wets/soft hackles!
- Traditional Steelhead and Atlantic Flies- Once again a glass of whiskey does well and for me, it has to be a Single Malt Scotch, likely from Speyside and even more likely it’s Mortlach 15yr or Macallan 10yr Fine Oak. I savor this traditional beverage slowly, maybe only taking a sip as I put the hook in the vice and when I take the finished fly out. I need all my wits about me when trying some of these complicated beauties.
- Streamers- Beer, beer and more beer! I love tying streamers and nothing goes better than beer. Likely something with a little kick, like a Stone IPA or a Ballast Point “Sculpin IPA”. Beer keeps my juices flowing and my thirst quenched. I tend to wet down and pull back materials on my streamers as they can get in the way of the next step. Usually all that is needed is a little saliva and beer aides in this process!
- Freestyle/Creative Session- Bourbon…on the rocks. When I’m messing around testing new ideas or materials, bourbon fuels the fire! It is also my go to spirit, period. When I am creating new flies, my concern is not for the immediate finished product, as it’s very rare that something comes off the vice and doesn’t get tweaked and refined. Most of the time it’s put somewhere on the desk where I look at it and critique the shape, size & proportions of materials. Then I tie it a second time with my improvements. Then I repeat this a third time. But I stop there until I can see them all on or in the water. Some patterns of mine have looked great until water tested and afterwards, straight into the garbage or under the razor.
One last thought…when it comes time to clean up your tying area, as I know most of us let it go until we can’t stand it, I advise a strong cocktail to ease the pain! Maybe a Dark & Stormy, a Moscow Mule or a Manhattan. My desk is a mess right now and will be until I knock out all my spring & summer flies. Then it will get cleaned up and likely stay that way until after the summer, as I will be too busy fishing & not tying. Unless I blow through a certain pattern that is lighting them up, then it’s back to it and the dreaded production tying begins. Ugh, production tying…and you better bet there will be an adult beverage involved!
Check out the latest VOD featuring Russ Maddin, tying his Flash Monkey baitfish imitation. Thank you Russ for sitting down with us, and sharing this pattern. More than just a fly tying video. Check it out, and let us know your thoughts.
This fly tying video is another instructional in our series of videos that you can view at our Videos on Demand page, check out other titles to expand your fly fishing education. Thank you for your continued support, and don’t hesitate to let us know what additional videos you want to see.
The Flash Monkey by Russ Maddin, is the latest streamer pattern from the creator of the popular Circus Peanut, Mad Pup, and South Bound Trucker. As in the past, Russ continues to push the evolution of fly tying – this pattern combines new materials from FlyMen and Hareline Dubbing with traditional hackles from Whiting Farms.
Requiring over 2 years to perfect, the Flash Monkey needed to meet Russ’ strict streamer standards. Countless trips to the river testing the Flash Monkey ensured it was properly balanced and moved in the river currents for maximum effectiveness.
This video is more than a simple tying demo. It breaks down the Flash Monkey and gives you full access into the mind of fly designer, fisherman , and river steward Russ Maddin. As he discusses his methods of tying, how to fish the pattern, and more. It also includes Q&A with Jon Ray discussing several retrieves to bring this fly to life, the best Scientific Anglers fly lines for the pattern, and how to build your leader to get the most out of your fly.
No matter your experience level you’ll learn something from this video. If you’re into streamer fishing – no matter the species – this is a must-watch video.
Great write up by Gunnar Brammer on the Flymen Blog Post about fly tying and the 3 different ways that you can use articulation in your fly design for stripping streamers. Flymen products have exploded onto the scene the last few years. Flymen products are a staple of my fly tying room. Articulated Shanks for steelhead, Fish- Skull Articulated Fish Spines , and Fish-Skull Body Tubing
Gunnar makes reference to Russ Maddin, and one of my personal favorite streamer patterns the Circus Peanut. Check out the link to the detailed how-to-tie video we did with Russ Maddin.
In my mind, Maddin’s Circus Peanut best exemplifies my personal definition of an articulated jig fly. The rear hook and front hook are identical with the exception of the chenille-wrapped lead eyes. The fly swims, jigs, and is a fish-catching machine.
The Circus Peanut has been a staple in the Russ Maddin fly box for years. The Circus Peanut orginated in Northern Michigan over a decade ago and is now fished all over the world. Many streamers by many famous fly tiers have followed this same template. Russ sits down with Jon Ray from Mangled Fly Media and shows his step-by-step process.
This video breaks down the Circus Peanut and gives you full access, into the mind of fly tier, fisherman , and river steward Russ Maddin. As he discusses his methods of tying, color matching, and setting up one of the best streamers of all time.
No matter your experience level you will learn something from this video. If your into streamer fishing no matter the species this is a must watch.
This past year was one of a kind. The steelhead fishing lasted forever, the hatches were late but amazing at times, and this spring’s flooding has had an impact on the entire fishing season in my neck of the woods. Some food sources come and go in these conditions. However, one of the most induring and ubiquitous creatures in Michigan is the sculpin, and I have been in love with these guys for a long time. Sculpins produced many fish this year as they are very effective in high water.
I have spent a lot of time looking for sculpins in our rivers. These fish love flat rocks in light to moderate current. If your river has broken concrete or bridges with a concrete base, these are sculpin hideouts. When the water is low, sculpins will come into shore. They also move into shore in the dead of winter. During the cold water months, one of the few baitfish that is easy to find is the sculpin. Sculpins themselves are predators, and if you ever decide to keep one in an aquarium they may well eat your other fish. The most common sculpin, the mottled sculpin, is pretty hardy and can stand warmer temps than other species.
When you tie flies, it is helpful to understand what sculpins look like. For most of the year, the majority of them are a tan color, like this one:
When they are breeding, the males can take on a black color. This is also true of gobies, which look like sculpins in many ways. If you tie a black sculpin in the spring it will imitate sculpins and gobies; it will catch big fish.
Sometimes you find sculpins that are a mottled olive color. This seems to be more common in the winter.
If you enjoyed this post, please visit my photo web site on smugmug.
I enjoy the challenge of big brown trout during the day of the summer months. This nice brown trout starts off my July just right.
The aggressive nature of a brook trout reminds me of a Great White Shark sometimes, now the size and teeth on the other hand. Just a different view of a brook trout coming to the boat on a soft hackle tied by John Ingham. Thank you John.