Thursday, December 27, 2012


Tying up a batch of Blue Charms and playing on the computer on a snow day here in Vermont:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Happy Holidays!

For the last few years, I've found it fun to come up with a fly dressed in Christmas-color finery.  Here's this year, and I hope all my friends have a wonderful holiday season!

And of course, best wishes for a safer, saner, 2013

With my very best regards,

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Golden Pheasant to Dye for!

During the past several years, I've really gotten into dyeing my own fly tying materials, and especially, into the color claret.   One doesn't see much in the way of claret-dressed flies on the Miramichi, but that's changing, at least for me!

I have posted, in various places, photos of some of my claret-dyed Golden Pheasant skins.  Those postings created some interest in my "dye work", and I've been pleased to dye a few different items up for friends and acquaintances.  Two of those friends recently asked if I could dye them up a claret GP skin (or in Ben's case, 4 claret GP skins).  Happy to oblige!

First, I needed to find a batch of primo Golden Pheasant skins, preferably with head and wings still attached.  I wanted to buy 8 of them, but most fly shops, I found, have 2 or 3 on the shelf, but not 8.  I also wanted to be sure that all 8 were from the same supply house.  Golden Pheasant skins are finicky things; on one occasion I put two "extra select" skins in the dye bath.  One came out beautifully and completely intact; the other came out one feather at a time.

Enter Poppy at The Red Shed Fly Shop (  I have bought at least one two-hand rod from him, and a few lines and some materials in the past.  Great service, price and products every time.  Sent him an email, got one right back from, "8 skins no problem."  I had the skins in my grubby little hands two days later all the way from Poppy's shop in Peck, Idaho, and they were excellent, just what the doctor ordered.

Finding the claret color I was looking for took some time and experimentation and advice from others.   I finally settled on this dye (

I have purchased several Whiting American capes dyed claret by Whiting in the past; this is virtually the same color, to my eye, that Whiting produces.

Harking back to my statement about the finicky nature of Golden Pheasant skins:  I played it safe, and never brought the dye bath to more than 175 degrees F.   The skins only needed to stay in the bath for 10 minutes.   I used a teaspoon of dye (probably overkill) in about a gallon of water.  I don't keep very accurate records....ok, ok, I don't keep any records....of my dye mixes, but I just did it and I have just enough short-term memory left to relate to you an accurate acounting of the mix.  Not likely that will happen again.  Oh, and I blow dry my skins right after giving them a soapy rinse bath.  And I'm most happy to report that ALL of the skins came out of the bath in one piece!

                                                       Click on the pics for larger versions!

So, now we need yer standard before and after photo set:
                                           Out of the package:

                                           Out of the bath:

The crests take on a particularly striking color.  Have to come up with a fly that does them justice!

And of course, we need the "whole pile of skins" shot (photo is "redder" than the skins actually are:

Claret-dyed Golden Pheasant makes for some pretty flies, and based on their success, atlantic salmon think they're pretty sweet, too!

Doing my own dyeing adds immeasurably to the joy I derive from the sport of fly fishing.  It wasn't hard to learn, and fortunately for me, is definately not rocket science.   And trust me, I did not do well in organic or biochemistry in grad school, so I have to say, just about anyone can do it.

Here are a few other little tidbits I've dyed for friends recently.  I think some fish will be fooled with this stuff!

And a little footnote:  My first post on this blog is dated March 13, 2011.  Since that time, and up to this minute, there have been 30, 378 visits to the blog!  Thanks for stopping by!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

September on the Miramichi, 2012

We headed up to New Brunswick on September 14th, a couple days earlier than originally planned so that Bridget and I could attend the Atlantic Salmon Museum's Hall of Fame Induction dinner in Doaktown on the 15th.  Our friends Renate Bullock and Joan Wulff were being inducted that evening, and I was pleased to have been asked to do the auction for the Museum that night.

There was a big crowd at the Curling Club in Doaktown, and it was good to hook up again with friends!  And it was wonderful to see women like Joan and Renate recognized for their many contributions to the sport of fly fishing and to atlantic salmon conservation. 

Renate on the podium:

Ted Rogowski, Joan Wulff, Renate Bullock and Bridget:

Of course, I wanted to duplicate this photo (of a couple years ago):

With a new one (and talk about a thorn between two roses!):

The auction was fun to do; everyone seemed to be in the spirit of the event.  The auction raised almost $11,000 for the Museum's programs, and overall, $22,000 was raised that evening, which will especially help their youth programs.

There was a nice heavy rain much of that day, and into the night.  The river was, as Renate put it, desperate low, so the rain was welcome.  Down at least 5 feet from when I was fishing in July!

We had been staying at a friend's camp (Jason Swayze)  Friday and Saturday night; Sunday we moved into our camp for the week on the Miramichi, the "Log Camp", owned by Vin Swayze and now used as part of Bullock's Lodge's operations.

Our friends Bob and Linda Warren and their setter, Molly (world's fastest English Setter!) were staying just across the way.  After getting settled into camp, it was time to go fishing Sunday evening.
Bob landed the first fish of the week on his Cutty Sark, #10.  It was after dark when the fish finally came to the net.

We started fishing in earnest Monday morning.  This was Bridget's second trip to the river with me, and she took little time to show us that all her practice casting on the lawn at home was worth the effort....Grilse On!!

The universal sign of success:


The River Queens pose for posterity!

That grilse took a #10 Glitter Bear tied low water style.  I tied one on the next day (no love up to that point for the Celtic Beauty, which did so well through the seasons last year) and hooked another grilse.....long line release, sad to say.

The weather was tyically New Brunswick...a little rain

a little sun:


I finally got into the act on a mid-week morning.  I was remembering back to 2010, when the water was low and slow and the Orange Sneaky became the fly 'o the week:

So I tied one on, so to speak, and hooked up on my very first cast mid-way through Home Pool!  I've really been enjoying casting my Loomis Stinger two hander...couldn't have reached this fish without it!

Dan Bullock got that last minute or so on tape...tense time!  (couldn't figure out how to embed it, sorry).  If I look a little tentative, it's because that's 6lb.  tippet out there!

What a beauty (great pic by Dan Bullock)!

One happy camper:


And she's ready to head up to Juniper:

Afternoons are always interesting around camp.  Today's lesson was about why maple leaves turn color in the fall:

Not to be outdone, Bridget hooked into her first-ever full tilt boogie salmon!

I'd say she's happy! (and a change of hat as a gesture of thanks to the fly's tyer...that would be me)!

She chose the fly for that session on the river:  Emmett Johnson's variation of the General Practioner, size 8 hook:

Blue turned out to be a lucky color late in the week (No, this was not my idea.)

She hooked into another salmon (we've started calling her TopRod).  She has a little trouble wading, so I was merely providing physical support.  No coaching from me, no siree.  Well, maybe the occasional "keep your rod tip up"....."keep your hand off the handle when its taking line"..."its gonna jump, lower your rod!"   You know, just some helpful hints.

We lost the fish, maybe a 10 pounder, at her feet.  I consider it a landed fish.  And you would, too!

All told, it was a great week in spite of very low water.  Bridget was top rod with 3 salmon hooked, two landed, and a grilse in hand.  I lost a couple grilse, but did land that beautiful, big hen.  Bob landed that nice salmon and I think a grilse or two.  Linda had a grilse on early in the week.

Autumn sunsets can be spectacular in New Brunswick, and this year was no different:


Just 7 more months and I'll be back.  Thanks so much to good friends Renate, Fred and Dan Bullock, Vin Swayze, and Bob and Linda Warren.  Hopefully (and I suspect it is so), a good time was had by all!



Monday, September 3, 2012

Inspiration is where ya find it!

I was enjoying my wildflower garden this cool Labor Day morning and noticed these newly emerged flowers.  They struck me as having great salmon fly colors.  I'm in the midst of tying a batch of Golden Pheasant Speys for our upcoming Miramichi trip, and thought I'd see how the colors translated into a salmon fly.  I like it!  Click on the pic for the big picture.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Golden Pheasant Spey (slight variant)

Tied these up for a Great Lakes Steelheader customer on A.J. 1.5 standard and heavy hooks.  They really soak up the material in that size!  For atlantics, I've never used anything larger than a 4, and usually a 6.  Incredibly effective fall pattern on the Miramichi, created by Bob Warren.  Photo of Bob's tie, and original pattern, in Bob Veverka's Spey Flies and How to Tie Them.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bill's first fish on a fly

By way of background: Bill Hodge is among that very small group of people I call "friend."  In fact, he and I go back some 40 years, when we lived near Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY.   I'm pretty sure I went there, and I think he did, but I don't remember whether we graduated or not.  Wait, I know I didn't.  Don't know if Bill did or not.   Anyway, even back then (ca. 1972), we shared a disposition towards certain beverages from Scotland.

In case you're wondering, Bill is the one with the moustache.

Fast forward:  Bill has been a life-long gear fisherman, but since he started reading this blog, became mildly interested in the finer form of fishing, that which involves the fly.  He took the free Orvis half-day Fly Fishing 101 course at his local (that would be Buffalo) Orvis dealer, and took advantage of their generous discount to course-takers, purchasing their Clearwater outfit.  Lots of lawn casting apparently ensued.

Faster forward:  After several aborted efforts (usually due to me staying overlong in New Brunswick), Bill took the train to Albany where I picked him up for a few days stay here in Bennington, Vermont.   Point of trip:  take the Lund to Cossayuna Lake over in NY for some real fishing with the fly.  OK, popping bug.  Still fly fishing, though.

First thing I noticed was his reel was set to left hand retrieve, the way all good reels should be (heh heh, that'll raise some hackles).  Problem is, Bill's a lefty, so he needed right hand retrieve.  A simple enough operation on the Clearwater reel....IF you have the right fingernails.  We didn't.  So he coped with the issue.  (Note:  the guy at the Orvis shop in Buffalo, upon Bill's return, didn't have the right fingernails, either.  Fortunately, Orvis' cleaning lady did, and all became right with the world).

Once Bill began stopping his forward cast before the rod tip was touching the water, he was just booming his casts out there, and was popping that Sneaky Pete for all it was worth.  Eventually, the big reward...Bill's first fish on a fly:

Uh, well, actually, that's his second fish on a fly.  The first one didn't quite show up in the photo, if you know what I mean.

I think we both had a grand time both on the water, and just hanging out.  Although Bill has aged a little over the past 40 years.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Two Weeks on the Miramichi: July, 2012

Late May and the Miramichi was, as my friend Renate Bullock said, "Desperate low."  So we all prayed for rain.  And got it.  Lots of it.  River up more than six feet at Bullock's Lodge (formerly Vin Swayze's Tuckaway Cabins) in Boiestown, New Brunswick.  I headed North anyway, bringing sink tips and spring streamers in addition to the usual summer salmon gear.

Made the trip on Saturday, June 30th, in a new record 10 hours and 1 minute, my driveway to McCloskey's beverage counter.  Including a 25 minute wait at the border (I always pick the wrong line).  Five hundred and fifty that north of Bangor the speed limit is now 75 on I-95!

Click on the photos for the big picture!
First fishing of the trip was Sunday, July 1, at Vin's Ledge Pool.  It's a great high water pool:

You can see that the water is well up into the grass on the island to the right.  My friend Bill Tomiello (in the photo) was in camp, and had been since before the water came up...he'd been experiencing some tough conditions.

But beautiful summer weather was setting in after the rains, and the river began to drop:

Tuesday was one big treat for me.  I'd done friend Alan Wilson and his wife a small favor, and he returned the favor many times over via a trip to McKiel Camp, of which he's a member.  On the 1.5 hour trip into the camp, I got my first view of Miramichi Lake in the distance:

We made a stop along the river at Half Moon, a popular spot for canoers and kayaker to put in.  Love the ingenious boat slide:

Riding with Vin and Allen is a hoot.  The conversation often goes something like this:

      A:  Is that the road to...
      V:  No, its the next one
      A:  I thought that went to, uh...
      V:  Nope, goes right there, but only if you take the fork
      A:  Which fork?
      V:  The first one.
      A:  No, which fork do we take?
      V:  The first one.
      A:  Oh.  We should go there sometime
      V:  Yup.

And I still don't know where they're talking about!

We finally arrived at a fork in the road.  Don't think its the one they were discussing:

Finally, McKiel Camp, a short canoe ride away (better be a good canoe'r in this water):

Allan took the canoe out while Vin and I fished (to no avail this day) from shore.  That is some tough, tough wading!

Fished for awhile at McKiel, then decided to do some sightseeing.  First up, Moose Call Camp:

The boys at the put-in:

Oh, and there are moose at Moose Call:

That was a great way to spend a day in New Brunswick!

Back in Boiestown:

As I mentioned earlier, Bill Tomiello was also in camp, along with his faithful companion, Cinder.

Cinder really doesn't care much about salmon fishing; she bores easily, I guess.  She was sound asleep, enjoying the sun.  I watched her wake up with a "where the hell am I and where the hell is he?" look on her face.   She looks good in a cap, I'd say:

And with the high water, she knew where the "high ground" was!

Bill is a fine two-hand rod caster, and spent an incredible amount of time with me helping me with my two-hand efforts.

He even spent an afternoon helping the ladies with their spey rod efforts:

He's a fine tyer, too, and gave me some pointers in that area, too!

I had a great time getting to know Bill better, and Cinder, too!

Bob and Linda Warren were in camp the first week, too, along with their setter, Molly (the fastest dog alive).  We had a great time in camp and on the river:

Linda had her lucky "Tanner-Tied Flies" hat on; she's a great caster and fish lander, so luck didn't have much to do with this fish:

Bob landed a few, too:

I just love camp life:

Except when Vin's porch needs work:

The first week rounded out with a wonderful meal prepared by Dan Bullock with an assist from his mom, Renate:

Thumbs up for week 1!

Week two and the Miramichi Salmon Association's Classic

For the past several years, I've been pleased to be the auctioneer at the opening fund-raiser for the MSA's Classic salmon fishing event.  I was particularly happy to auction at this year's event a Wheatley fly box full of 86 proven flies tied by members of the forum.  It was an incredible effort on their part (I even snuck a few flies into the box) that raised important funds for MSA.  A framed set of flies was also contributed by the group, and more flies were added to the box at the last minute:

The MSA Classic is all about bringing folks to the Miramichi system.  It's 2.5 days of fishing the Main Southwest Miramichi and its tributaries.  The New Brunswick non-resident guide requirement is waived for the event by the province, and a 3-day license is included in the $350 cost of participating.  For a guy like me, its a great opportunity to fish the tributaries of the Main Southwest at an incredibly reasonable cost.  Lunches are even included!  Importantly, it is not a fishing competition.

Vin Swayze and I fished the Classic together.  We were fortunate to find great accomodations downriver from Boiestown through the efforts of NewBrunswickSalmonFishing forum member Brian Cuming.  Brian hooked us up with White Rapids camp owner Kirk Gordon, who rented his camp to us for the duration at an exceedingly fair price.  Thanks to them both!

Monday morning we fished the Cains River with Omer Mackenzie.  Beautiful pool, but the salmon hadn't found it yet.

I think over the course of the morning Vin and Omer solved most of the world's problems on the riverbank!

The Cains is certainly easy on the eyes!

Monday evening we fished a beautiful pool on the Renous with Stephanie Elson.  Another beautiful spot, and we did see, but didn't hook, a grilse.

Tuesday morning we fished Emory Brophy's pool with him in Blackville.  I hooked a nice fish on one of Bill Tomiello's Shady Lady Spey flies, and very kindly gave it a long-line release.  What a guy.

Tuesday evening we fished with Bill Chamberlain on the Little Southwest upstream a ways from Debbie and Dale Norton's Upper Oxbow Adventure Lodge.  Debbie and Dale are great supporters of MSA, and their place ( is an excellent place to stay!  We didn't get into any fish that evening.

Wednesday morning was a treat!  We were originally scheduled to hit the Northwest, but due to low water, elected to skip it.  Paul Elson and Howie Gould, "forum friends" from took up the slack and trucked us WAY up the Little Southwest Miramichi.  What a place!

Vin kept Paul and Howie laughing on shore with his stories while I fished:

I bet this white pine's roots could tell some stories of ice and floods along the Little Southwest!

Even my casting got better due to the calming effect of this serene scene

Howie put his two hander and a little chartreuse buck bug to good use, landing the only fish of the outing:

Paul and Howie really went the distance (all puns intended) to show us a wonderful time, and Vin and I are really apreciative of their efforts.  Of all the MSA volunteers' efforts, for sure.

The last lunch of the event takes place at MSA's hatchery operation.  Great cookout, and one "guest" enjoyed brook trout from one of the rearing ponds:

The little bear even went back for seconds, then thirds!  Great scene to end the Classic!

Back to Boiestown (again)

My good friends Jamie Woods and Bill Dreyer had eased into camp while I was fishing the Classic, joining Bill Tomiello and camp manager/guide Dan Bullock:

Bill D, using mostly an original style Shady Lady with orange-ish body, landed fish large and small:

Jamie hooked into good (lol, have you ever seen a bad atlantic salmon) fish, too, mostly with Bob Warren's Cutty Sark:

Even your faithful correspondent got into fish - and the Celtic Beauty did its job!

A little change of fly:

That one ended in a long-line release, I'm chagrined to report.

But with a full crowd of kibbitzers, the Celtic Beauty and I prevailed again!

Back you go!

I hooked fish on just three flies over the course of the two weeks:  The Celtic Beauty, Bill Tomiello's Shady Lady Spey, and the mis-named (because there already is a streamer with this name) Christmas Tree:

It was a wonderful two weeks - the first full two-week vacation of my adult life.  My deep and abiding thanks to all my friends that made it so.