Friday, September 2, 2016

Mike Valla's "Tying and Fishing Bucktails and Other Hairwings; Atlantic Salmon Flies to Steelhead Flies"

Last winter, my friend Mike Valla approached me about tying a dozen or so atlantic salmon flies for his next book which was to be about, initially, hairwing trout flies.  The more he thought about the scope of the book, he related to me, the more he felt he should broaden the scope of the book to include hairwings for atlantic salmon, steelhead and even saltwater species.  Mike's other books, published by Stackpole, were visually stimulating and thoughtfully written, so I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the project, which has just been delivered to booksellers.  The cover:

I really got bitten by the hairwing "bug" (pun intended), and dove into the project, ultimately tying more than 60 flies for the atlantic salmon section.  Mike was very appreciative:

Dave McNeese tied the steelhead flies for that section, and other fine tyers contributed flies as well:

The table of contents reveals the depth of the book:

Mike presents a well-documented historical perspective on hairwings, which I really appreciate.  There are so many "how to tie it" and/or catalogs of dressings out there that pay scant, if any, attention to the roots of a given fly or fly style.

Mike did a wonderful job of presenting step-by-step instructions for many of the trout patterns, as well as photographing the steps Dave McNeese and myself take to tie one of our flies:

There are more than 500 hairwing dressings presented with killer photographs and detailed patterns:

I am especially appreciative of the way Mike dealt with my flies, and my passion for atlantic salmon fishing and fly tying.  His photographs of my flies are WAY better than the flies themselves!

My old friend Adriano Manocchia even created a painting for the book, which features one of my favorite old salmon books, and a Celtic Beauty in the foreground:

Even veteran tyers are likely to find new patterns in the book, especially in Mike's trout section, and I believe that anyone starting out fishing and tying hairwings will benefit incredibly from the book.  There are great sections on fishing hairwings in different settings, all based on Mike's deep experience fishing them.

Stackpole has a long history of producing beautiful, well-laid out sporting books.  However, they were bought out during the process of writing the book.  None of us involved are particularly pleased that the new company brought the book out in soft-cover on not-really-the-finest paper stock, but the content is there and it is solid.  The work that Mike put into this book is evident everywhere; kudos to him for a job well done. should buy the book.  Barnes and Noble and Amazon have it and are shipping it now.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Miramichi Salmon Camp - July, 2016

I headed up to Bullock's Lodge and their salmon camps in Boiestown, New Brunswick on Friday, July 8, 2016 - a couple days before Jamie and Pete Woods and Bill Dreyer would get into camp for our annual week of salmon fishing together.  It's a 560 mile, approximately 10-hour drive for me, and with an auction to do for the Miramichi Salmon Association (MSA) Sunday night, I like to get a couple days rest (that is, if I can duck my pal Vin Swazey and his never-ending list of chores he'd like help with - which I am never successful in doing!).

But I get just a tad ahead of myself.  I'd made two earlier trips up to the river, one in early May and another in early June to do auctions for the Woodmen's Museum and then the MSA.  Very little fishing (and no fish) during those trips (and no work!), but I want to share a few photos of each of those trips.  They're fun in that one can see the changes in the river and the land surrounding it over those Spring months.  Don't can click on the pics for a larger image.

The ice went out in early April.  On May 1, it looked like this:

And the intervale (a lowlying tract along a river) that is in front of the camps and Vin's home looked like this:

Ice was being stubborn about leaving for the year (but the river water was clear):

By early June, the river's level hadn't really changed, but my, how things had greened:

The intervale now a lush carpet:

One of my favorite wildflowers, the Lupine, was coming up on the gravel bars now showing after a winter under the ice:



I did get to watch a pretty cool phenomenon while sitting (as I so often do) watching the river go by.  My first Miramichi waterspout!

And while geese on the lawn can surely make a mess, its always fun to watch a new family forage.  Interesting that if one adult has it's head down feeding, the other's is always up and alert.

On to July!  My first morning in camp, the river was still really up there:

The river was so high that the gravel bar in the Bullock's Home Pool was in danger of going under again (Bill Tomiello and friend giving it a go anyway):

Vin's Camp Pool was pretty unfishable at this point:

Since I wasn't really scheduled to fish on Saturday, Vin pointed out that the ceiling in a room in his parent's old homestead that the family is restoring was almost ready for paint, but needed a real pro's (he should have been a used car salesman) finishing touches on the new sheetrock first.  Yup, sucker that I am, I finished the rock and painted the ceiling.  Sigh, there really wasn't much else to do, anyway.

The day passed peacefully and soberly on Sunday, since I had that pesky auction to do down in Newcastle that night.  While Vin and I were gone, Jamie, Pete and Bill got into camp and headed to the river for the evening's fishing.

Pete Woods is twenty-five years old, and works in some "you better have a thick wallet" antique store in New York City.  I've been pleased to be a part of his salmon fishing life since he was in his teens.  Yikes, can that guy cast!  Oh, and hook and land salmon:

Sadly, dear readers, I must report that the twenty-plus pounder in Pete's hands succumbed to the fly I love to hate, the dreaded (here it comes) White-tailed Green Machine.  Ugh.  I thought we had taught him better.   Notice the bend in that hook!

Bill D. hooked up as well, landing a grilse on a Shady Lady (the original style, not some spun deer-hair wannabe!):

Oh, wait, that's right.  Pete wasn't done yet.  Landed a grilse, too (guess what fly.):

I'm so glad I was an hour away doing a fundraiser instead of having to deal with slimey old atlantic salmon.  Right.

Tuesday it finally began warming up.  I mean it's July, and I had a fire in the camp woodstove Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights.  Not to mention wearing a sweater, fleece jacket and raingear all those same days!

It was a beautiful morning on the river...that Pete sure can cast:

Sadly (the author said with a wry smile), Pete lost a salmon that morning, again on that miserable green fly.

Time for lunch!  I brought along the apparatus to cook up a Low Country Boil, which I do believe was enjoyed by all:

Please note Pete's NYC hairstyle, which his father Jamie likes to describe as a Euro-trash soccer player man-bun.  LOL, it's actually pretty short compared to what mine looked like when I was his age!

We were very happy when Michele Swazey stopped by for a bit of the boil!

As for Tuesday evening, all I have to report is that Pete got a grilse on....wait for it...a buck bug of a color other than green!

Wednesday began with a nice, foggy dawn:

Which cleared away into a bright morning:

It's a great time, standing on the river bank, drinking my morning coffee, and watching salmon heading up river towards where I'm going to fish that day:

We headed up to Home Pool at Bullock's Lodge for the morning's fishing.  Looked like a perfect Bomber morning.  Renate Bullock wasn't guiding that morning, but was tidying up their guest cabin, right handy to where we head down to the river.  I asked her to pick a fly for me out of my Bomber box, and she went right to the little size 8 "Locator", as she calls it.  So I tied it on, and went down to the home side of Home Pool.  I was working my way down river, watching the little bug ride high in the water, when a fish rolled about twenty yards back upriver...where I had just fished through.  Always a sucker for a showing fish, and never mindful of the phrase, "showing fish aren't taking fish", I got out of the river, got above the fish, and on the first cast...grilse on.  Dandy little's always so much fun when they take a dry!

Dan Bullock was guiding Jamie and I on Home Side; he was also fishing a Bomber.  A little while after I landed my grilse, Dan came over and asked which Bomber I was using.  Told him it was the little Locator his mom picked out for me.  He asked if I had any more...which I always do.  He wanted Jamie to try it.  Not long after that, big commotion upriver; Jamie has a good fish on...on the Locator.  Big fish, but Jamie got it in quickly:

We love our Locator!  And it always pays to listen to your guides' suggestions!  Nice job, Renate and Dan!

The river really warmed up that afternoon into the evening; we opted to enjoy the river from the comfort of the bank and with the assistance of the cooler.

The river was starting to drop by Thursday morning:

Bill got a grilse that morning on a Same Thing Murray.  I got a nice video of that (and also of Jamie's big fish).  I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Microsoft for attempting to install Windows 10 on my computer without my consent, thereby wiping out, among other things, all of my Windows Live Mail and the good old and easy to use Live Movie Maker.  My thanks to Bridget and her son Bob for the dozens of hours they spent reconstructing my emails via Outlook Express, and figuring out ways around not having the old Movie Maker.  Sadly, maybe after a few months I'll figure out what they've done for me, but for the moment, long and/or edited movies are not in the cards.  Again, my deep and abiding thanks to Microsoft.  Idiots.

I had run out of wader that morning, trying to get to a fish.  Just drying out the boxes:

Also, I was a little surprised that Canada Customs let Jamie drive his truck across the border.  I always thought you weren't supposed to bring green plants into Canada!

Thursday evening was more relaxing, not so much fishing (at least for the old men; Pete always went) with upriver neighbors:

Friday the water was still time for Jamie, Bill and Dan:

Jamie and Bill are both attorneys.  Always checking in with their offices, even up on the river.  In days gone by, it was phone calls.  Now it's this:

Pete commented that the scene reminded him of lunchtime at a middle school.  Minus the beer, of course.  And the entertainment never stops in Boiestown...we even got to watch wedding photos being taken:

The boys all had to leave Saturday.  The water was coming back up anyway, so they didn't feel too badly about it. 

I fished a bit in the morning, then just went to a couple parties with Boiestown friends that afternoon and evening.  We'd all gotten fish during the week, and had a great time all around.  You can't beat that.  Last night in camp:

That setting sun reminds me of two good men we lost this year, Lawrence Swazey and Bob Warren.

Lawrence was 87.  He was leaving a large gathering in Fredricton when he was struck and killed trying to cross a busy boulevard on May 8, 2016.  In the almost 20 years I knew him, I never once heard him utter an unkind word about anyone.  Born in Boiestown, he lived in Fredricton in adult life, but maintained a camp right handy to his brothers Vin and Jim's homes.  He loved to play his electric piano at local fundraisers; he was a joy to be around.  The Swazey's are a tight family; I know how much they miss him.

Lawrence (on left, with my pal Walt)

And at the piano at a Boiestown fundraiser:

My bud Bob Warren lost his seemingly forever battle with cancer at home on July 10th, 2016, the day he should have been returning home from the river.  He fought that fight with the grace and humor that most of us can only wonder about.  Bob landed my first atlantic salmon for me so many moons ago.  He was such an old-school outdoorsman (and I mean that in the very best way) that loved his bird dogs and his salmon...and his family...and not in that order.  He may have equals in the world of fly tying, but there are none better.  He was one of a kind.

Bob and Linda Warren

I miss them both terribly.