Published by David Weaver [Fishidiot] on 06/12/2015 (596 reads)
The Cumberland Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited will be hosting its Annual Mid Atlantic Fly Casting Championships on June 20th, 2015 at Allenberry Resort in Boiling Springs, PA. The competition will be conducted in conjunction with The Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum 13th Annual Heritage Day Celebration. The Heritage Day event is a full day of celebrating the fly fishing heritage in Pennsylvania with over 60 vendors and exhibitors, hands on demonstrations, special seminars, instruction, raffles, auctions and the always popular Fish Swim Race on the Yellow Breeches for a chance to win $500! More information on Heritage Day is available on the Museum website: www.paflyfishing.org.
Published by Tim Bennett [TimB] on 06/01/2015 (847 reads)
One of the nice things about fly fishing is that it usually isn’t a “crack of dawn” affair. Most hatches happen in the afternoon or evening. You can usually sleep in a little without worrying about missing the best fishing of the day. Fly fishing for hickory shad may be an exception. I usually try to get an early start when they are running.
The guys gathered at the appointed time and we made the trip south to Maryland hoping to catch the first surge of these anadromous fish on their journey up Deer Creek to spawn. We crossed the Maryland border, and then Conowingo Dam, right on schedule and pulled into the parking lot with five minutes to spare. The liquor store was just about to open. Jim knew the drill, but Bob was new to the shad game and raised an eyebrow. He said he had a few beers with him, enough for all three of us, and that there really was no need to stop. I told him we weren’t there to buy beer. That raised his other eyebrow.
There were three other cars in the lot, all waiting like us. We had a couple of laughs speculating what they might be there for at 8:00 am on a Sunday morning. Two young men in their twenties were anxious to get into the store and tried the door – locked. They peered in the window, looking for signs of movement but gave up and went back to their car. At 8:01 the door opened and we all filed in. One gentleman went right up to the counter to buy lottery tickets. The young men asked the clerk about fishing licenses - the store was also a Maryland fishing license agent. We headed right for the register with the mini bottles of spirits, and a stack of Plano boxes piled high. We were there to buy shad darts.
Shad darts are wedge-shaped jig heads with a sparse bunch of calf tail or similar fur as a tail. The lead heads are painted bright colors. They are a traditional spin fishing lure that sinks quickly and has a darting action on the retrieve. We bought the smallest size the liquor store had in several different color combinations. Anything larger would be too difficult to cast with a fly rod.
Hickory shad (Alosa mediocris) are a member of the herring family and are smaller than their relative the American shad. They typically make their spawning run in April and early May when flows and water temperature trigger the upstream migration. In 1980, Maryland placed a moratorium on the harvest of shad and implemented a restoration program that has increased the number of fish entering the streams to spawn. A catch and release fishery is allowed. A nine foot six weight rod is perfect for the hickories which range from 12-20 inches. They are strong fighters that may leap several times earning them the nickname, “poor man’s tarpon”. That may be a stretch, but they sure are fun.
So you might ask, shad darts with a fly rod? Most fly anglers fish un-weighted flies on a sink tip line for shad. We all had some small marabou streamers with us that would likely catch shad, but with weighted flies we could stick with standard floating lines. But there’s more to it than that. There’s something irreverent about using shad darts with a fly rod. I guess we could be accused of “thumbing our noses” at the perception of fly fishing as a sport for snobs. Surely, the purists would be appalled at our use of darts… from a liquor store no less! That may be partly true, but in reality the darts are pretty damn effective!
We fish the darts casting across stream just above a likely looking run and add a few upstream mends to get the fly… uh, I mean dart, down deep. If the shad are in a biting mood, they usually hit right at the end of the swing. In this technique the fly rod is actually more effective than a spinning rod because of the ability to mend the line to put the dart right in the strike zone.
As a sea run fish, shad seem a little photo sensitive in the shallow creeks and fishing typically slows down in the middle of the day. Some anglers concentrate on morning and evening when the light is less intense. It’s still worth spending the middle of the day on the water. It will give you a chance to figure out the most productive runs as well as witness the spectacle of the spawn. There’s something really cool about standing in what looks like a classic trout stream with thousands of sea run fish swimming by your feet on their reproductive journey. You likely won’t be alone in watching the migration. Osprey, herons, and bald eagles are often spotted in or over the water.
Unusually cold temperatures and high flows through Conowingo Dam delayed and prolonged the run in Deer Creek this year, making the timing difficult to predict. Armed with our darts, we lucked out and caught the first surge of the season and did well our first day. Over the next couple of weeks, some days were great, some slow. The shad run is starting to wind down now and it looks like we’ll have to wait until next spring to continue our annual tradition of an early morning road trip to catch the shad run. Maybe we’ll see you there. Look for us in the liquor store parking lot!
Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 05/23/2015 (4907 reads)
I was looking through my photographs from last year and found a Green Drake snapshot, which is one of my favorites. Green Drakes (Ephemera guttulata) are one of my favorite flies to observe, too.
I say observe as I usually find myself on Penns Creek fishing while a huge Green Drake hatch is coming off and I am doing anything, but catching a lot of trout. The mixed hatches that occur during this time of year are exciting and frustrating as many angler's would agree.
So this year I am going to stop practicing the fine art of talking to myself during the hatch and I might even throw on a sulphur or a should I dare say a emerger on during the madness?
The Green Drakes can starting showing up around May 20th and are complimented by the Coffin Fly spinners which provide equal splendor during this time of year. So sit back and get ready to enjoy the show.
Published by Joe Dziedzina [Dizzy] on 05/10/2015 (7980 reads)
With the best hatch of the season fast approaching, I thought it might be helpful for some of the “Newbie’s” to post a few words on the Sulphur Hatch to get them off to a flying start this month… so if anyone has anything to add in the way of tips, tricks, details, etc. PLEASE feel free to chime in!
The months of May and June here in southeastern PA bring forth the greatest event of the fly-fishing season… the SULPHUR HATCH. These yellowish mayflies are actually made up of three (3) different mayfly species; Ephemerella rotunda, E. invaria, and E. dorothea. Most streams in SEPA hold all three (3) species which can be good AND bad. It’s good because it extends the sulphur hatch from 1st/2nd week of May through much of June (most seasons)… and it’s bad because there are subtleties that the fish notice and key on (sometimes) and if the angler does not adjust, he (or she) could be in for a long evening. The good news though, is that the “bad” is well within your control.
First a quick overview of the three (3) players, in order of emergence; • Ephemerella rotunda: Duns have a medium yellow body color with slight “olive cast” to them… the largest of the three by a hair, could be as large as a size 12 hook size, but a size 14 will do (a true “tweener”)… often hatch out of very swift water (just below riffles)… hatching usually begins around Mother’s Day and lasts 2-3 weeks… hatch most often in late afternoons (4-6 pm)
• Ephemerella invaria: Duns have a yellowish/orange body color … best imitated with a size 14 hook… often hatch out of slightly slower flows than rotunda’s… hatching usually begins around 3rd week in May peaking around Memorial Day (slowing down in June)… hatch most often in early evenings (6-7 pm)
• Ephemerella dorothea: Duns have a pale yellow body color … best imitated with a size 16 hook (sometimes 18)… often hatch out of slower pools… hatching usually begins in last week of May and lasting well into June… hatch most often in evenings (7-8:30 pm), sometimes right at dusk in a quick “blizzard” of activity.
Believe it or not, there are other “yellow” mayflies hatching during these same times as well, but those listed above make up the Sulphur Hatch as most anglers know it. As you can see there are differences between the three and it will save your sanity to have the proper sizes/colors to cover the gamut. At the very least I would carry size 14 dry fly’s in sulphur yellow to cover the rotunda/invaria and size 16 pale yellow imitations to cover the dorothea (some anglers use a Light Cahill for this). To compound the mayhem, in addition to the over-lapping hatch activity, trout will often key on a certain “stage” of emergence from drifting nymphs, to struggling emergers, to floating duns… and just when you think you have THAT all figured out, there could be spent spinners on the water as well!
If you show up to the stream in the mid afternoon and no fish are rising and no insects are on the water (or in the air)… you could be in for some fast action by tying on a Pheasant-tail nymph (size 14-16) and fishing the riffles and runs. Prior to emergence these nymphs will fill the water column as they struggle to reach the surface. Trout will be gorging on them and you will often see flashes in the stream as fish slash from side-to-side engulfing drifting nymphs by the mouthful.
Once a good supply of duns are on the surface the trout will come up for them and the real fun begins with dry flies… fish staging in faster water will be easier targets as they have precious little time to inspect your offering. Trout holding in slower pools will be a bit tougher, but may be larger and you should still dupe them easily with a stealthy “down & across” approach. If the fish refuse your floating dry, try tying an emerger pattern or weightless nymph about 6” off the back of the dry. This will take fish that are targeting these hapless naturals. Some of you may have heard people say that the trout are easier to catch at the beginning of the sulphur hatch but get smarter as the weeks wear on? These are the guys that don’t adjust to the dorothea activity and are missing out big time. The difference in a size 16 or 14 hook may not sound like much, but place the fly’s next to each other and you will see why the trout key on one or the other. Just pay attention to what is on the water and you’ll be OK.
The last piece of the puzzle is the spinnerfall. Again, this can be as frustrating or as rewarding as you want to make it. Personally I take my largest “dry fly caught” trout every season during the spinnerfall. It’s an easy meal and one that large trout rarely pass up. As you survey the stream take notice of the presence of any swarms of “dancing” mayflies over the riffles. These will be egg-laden females preparing to drop their cargo into the drink before dying and dropping in themselves. The males in all likelihood have already fallen, spent from mating activity. During sulphur season this activity most often takes place during the early evening if not right at dark (maybe early morning if air temp’s are too high for mating flights). These mating swarms start out high above the stream surface and if you happen to notice flocks of insect-eating birds (swallows, swifts, nighthawks… maybe bats) high above, you can be pretty sure that a spinnerfall is about an hour away. Sounds complicated but it is surprisingly simple… for this activity I carry just one fly—The Rusty Spinner—in sizes 14-18. Look for subtle risers, often times near the tail ends of pools, just “dimpling’ the surface and float your imitation right down into the waiting jaws of a heavy brown. If rising fish continue to ignore your floating dun, tie on a Rusty Spinner and 9 out of 10 times you will be surprised at the response.
Always keep in mind that ANY and ALL of the above described activities could be going on… sometimes simultaneously! Just be observant, let the trout tell you what they want, and you will enjoy your cigar and cold beverage a LOT more back at the parking area… this I promise.
*NOTE* The referenced taxon above is a bit outdated as the society of entomologists (or whoever they are) have decided that E. invaria and E. rotunda are now the same species (E. invaria)… also they have added a second dorothea to E. dorothea (E. dorothea dorothea). This info is strictly for the angler’s that are over-obsessed with details (like ME for example)… the trout still eat them the same as they always have.
Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 05/05/2015 (7290 reads)
Recently going through my mayfly photographs I found a nice set of pictures from the Paflyfish Spring Jam in 2010. The Green Drake (Ephemera guttulata ) hatch was in full swing that year and photographs of these mayflies was easy and plentiful. Most of the weekend was overcast and rain as normally forecasted for the Spring Jam. Emergers (subimigo) and spinners (imago) were not so much active during the day, but lined the sides of the streams in the hundred's of thousands. I am always torn between fishing and photography on days like this but glad put down my fly rod for a while and captured a lot of great shots.
With so many mayflies and photos it was easy to get so nice shots of the Green Drake spinners, which are referred to as Coffin Flies because of their white extended body. I wanted to demonstrate the differences between spinner (imago) male and female. These two Coffin Flies attached show these differences. Most notably the male has longer extended fore legs and claspers at the rear of the body. Females as seen do not have these body characteristics.
Male (left photo) Long fore legs Rear claspers or forceps at rear of body Eyes on a male tend to be larger
Female (right photo) Short fore leg Forceps do not exist Smaller flatter eyes