By Brian Davenport
I helped with a new fly fisher clinic a few years back. The clinic taught students how to tie knots and get the casting basics down. It also went over flies and where trout live. At the end of the clinic they took the students out fishing. Most mentors had their students fishing dry flies because that is what they like to fish. I know that some folks absolutely love one method over another, and that wet flies are probably not near the top of their list, but bear with me on this.
You have a significant other, a friend or a youngster that is interested in fly fishing, one of the easiest methods of taking trout is to swing a wet fly. My reasoning is this---first you do not have to be a great fly caster. If they can get the fly out a reasonable distance, down and across or across that’s good enough. Second- fishing a wet fly is really effective in one and a half foot to three or four foot of water, so wading is easier. Also, it does not require the new fishers undivided attention like watching an indicator or dry fly does. They may have to mend the line a little. The strikes are known- the fish pretty much hook themselves. That’s not to say down and across is the only way to fish a wet fly, but for a beginner it is a great way to get them hooked on fly fishing (pun intended).
Now for the fly tying aspect of Wet flies-
A tail, maybe a rib, some dubbing and a hen hackle or some other soft hackle like a Hungarian partridge feather. No expensive dry fly hackle or any really hard to obtain materials, and if its not a perfect tie the fish don’t mind. So it is something reasonably inexpensive to tie and you can work on the fundamentals of tying a fly while still giving the beginning fly tier/ fisher something that they can take from vise to stream and have success. Thereby furthering their enthusiasm for a new sport and basic skills you can help them build on.
Think about it and maybe try it with the next new person you help get into this sport that we love.
Some great wisdom here for the beginning angler and the seasoned veteran. I think wet flies work so well because people dont really fish wet flies much anymore, all the more reason to fish them! Thanks for sharing this with us Brian. Till Next time...
Tight lines - Tim
By Norvise ambassador Shannon Messer.
As I sit here sipping bourbon gifted to me by a former client that I now consider a good friend, Brandon, from Kentucky, I ponder how people felt the first time they sat at a tying vise. The pressure to tie a beautiful fly was intense and a bit overwhelming for most of us. While teaching fly tying I have a phrase that I use and certainly believe in. “Ugly Flies Catch Fish.”
This is a statement I started making years ago to people getting into the tying game, something to set them at ease so they could make it thru a fly pattern. Do you remember when you started tying flies, and how you tried so hard for the perfect fly every time? Let’s face the facts. At first, we all lack the skill-sets that lead to perfectly tied flies. This statement, in my opinion, was more fact, but it was an attempt to build confidence in a new fly tyer.
Over the years of wading many of the best and most technical trout streams in the United States I have learned many things, some on my own, but most from legends in our area. You quickly learn to pay attention to your surroundings as they will reveal a road map to success if you are willing to accept it. This road map can come from Mother Nature or from an old timer that at one time had the pressure of catching trout to provide food for the family at home.
I recall many late evenings while fishing with Jerry and Scottie on Straight Fork witnessing great hatches causing my blood to pump at a frantic pace, as trout were eager to take a perfectly drifted fly. The problem for myself, and even Scottie, then was that we were catching trout, but we were not catching the quality of trout that Jerry consistently did. Picture the scene from A River Runs Thru it, the father sitting on the hillside reading while letting the boys learn valuable lessons from Mother Nature. That was how we felt, but Jerry was showing no mercy. Every time he would have his five fish limit of the nicest Smoky Mountain Trout you would ever lay your eyes on! I made a pledge to myself that I was going to crack the code, but later I found out that I could not see the forest for the trees.
Let’s backtrack a bit to the time that I started tying flies on a Thompson AA Vise under the watchful eyes of Roger Lowe, Alvin Gilliland, and Charles “Charlie Bear” Messer. I always strived to tie the neatest fly I possibly could. Now, remember, hackle feathers were not the quality that we have today, thus adding to the challenge of tying the perfect fly that any fly angler would love to have in his or her fly box. I would go as far as keeping a sharp razor blade on hand to cut all the materials off the Mustad 94840 hook that most of us tied on back then. I was doing my best to impress people that eventually were honored and recognized by the Fly Fishing Museum in Bryson City, NC. I later learned that instead of impressing people I needed to be impressing the trout.
A few of our common patterns we use include the Charlie Whopper, Yellow Palmer, and the Female Adams. The Charlie Whopper is one of several family patterns that the Messer’s are known for, but that will have to wait for another time. The Yellow Palmer is a fly that you can fool trout on all summer long, regardless of the watershed fished, thus making it a very popular fly to use.
As we were sitting around the camp organizing fly boxes and preparing leaders it hit me! Jerry always wanted the ugliest Yellow Palmers that I often removed from my fly box! It eventually got to the point where Jerry would select the hackle feathers for the Yellow Palmers that I tied for him. Of course, that was after I found out what he was doing with all the worn out, ugly flies that Scottie and I would discard at the camp table.
I made it a point to sit back and observe what Jerry was doing that one evening trip, praying I possibly could become half the fly fisherman he was. After watching Jerry take a couple of nice brown trout, I made my way to him, and point blank asked what he was doing that I wasn’t? He took the time to educate me on how he fished the ugliest, worn out dry flies that most people would discard for junk. Jerry would dress the fly prior to hitting the water, but that was usually the only time, since he understood that the trout would key in on an injured, large meal. By using over-sized hackle, sparsely wrapped flies he was in essence fishing with a cripple, emerger, or a spent fly, all in one.
Jerry revealed to me his secret box. It was tucked away in the front left pocket of his Army issued, battered and beaten, camouflage jacket he brought home from the jungle of Vietnam. That box revealed the rattiest flies you would ever see! Within the box rested tired flies with bits of hackle unraveling from many hook shanks, exposing years of use and abuse from hungry trout, revealing a great story and a priceless lesson that day. Ugly flies catch fish!
That evening on the water is tattooed on my brain and certainly influences the way I tie my personal flies…big, and a bit ugly. I went on to even tying Jerry’s Big Ugly, and tried selling in the shop. However, no takers with the exception of one smart guide, who still contacts me for them for his guiding business. I strive to tie perfectly tied flies for retail in the shop, and I will always challenge others to do the same. However, in the meantime, if you can get the tippet thru the eye of the hook then it just may fool the largest fish you have ever taken.
My advice to anyone starting on the wonderful journey of fly tying is to never be quick to let outside influences negatively affect you and your ties. I find myself often using the Bob Ross theory during my tying videos. It is your fly, so tie it the way you want it! Use oversized hackle, use larger wings, change the recipe to meet your needs, and don’t ever feel bad about it! The more you tie, the better you will get, but most importantly strive to tie a quality fly that will last. One last thought…pretty flies catch anglers, but ugly flies catch fish!
Great post Shannon, thank you for sharing this. Till next time...
Tight Lines - Tim
Well, the crew made the 6 hour trek west again this year to chase what has become one of my favorite fish, the Northern Pike. This marks the second year we have done this trip and I am sure it won’t be the last. I mean, what is not to like about big, aggressive, toothy fish? I just love this type of fishing!
We left Delaware Friday afternoon, we fished Saturday and Sunday and we made the easy drive east on the PA turnpike home early Monday morning. We were all tired, worn out and sore, it was 100% worth it!
If you have never taken a Pike on the fly I would suggest you do it ASAP. This is a very visual fishery with big flies, big fish sometimes at very close quarters. The take is incredible, to the point it can actually frighten you when it happens. I just love every part of it.
We are typically fishing out of drift rafts and the Smith Fly boats are perfect for this type of fishery. The lack of proper boat ramps along the river makes having a portable, light weight boat a must. It would be very hard, almost impossible to fish a hard hull here. We like the Smith Fly rafts so much we brought a “great Big Shoals” 15 footer home with us! 9 weight rods are the norm with an intermediate shooting head line. We opted for a variety of Temple Fork Outfitters rods including the Mangrove, Axiom 2 and the new A2X rods all paired with BVK and BVK 3 reels. Lines were Rio’s Outbound Short intermediate heads with floating running lines.
If you have ever looked into the mouth of a big Northern you will see rows and rows of large, sharp teeth. Wire bite tippet is not a suggestion it is a must! Leaders were fairly simple, 30# mono, 20# mono and a section of 30 pound knotable wire. The entire leader system is less than 3 feet long.
The flies we used were pretty diverse. We threw Game Changers (several varieties) bulkhead hollow flies, double deceivers and Pat Cohen’s Man Bear Pig. On the ride home Ed said “that Man Bear Pig May be the perfect fly for this type of fishing”. One thing is for sure. What ever fly you use make sure it has a sturdy, sharp, heavy gage hook, these fish are no joke. And they will absolutely destroy a poorly tied fly with a cheap hook!
The fishing is pretty simple for these fish. Pound the banks as much as you can and strip, strip, pause. Josh, one of our guides said they get probably 80% of their pike eats on the pause. One thing I will say is you have get the fly in the kitchen, possibly on the dinner plate, and Pike live in some nasty places. You can’t be afraid to put your fly in harms way. Snags, both in and above the water are the norm, know that going in.
The first day we spent almost 10 hours in the boat. Pounding the banks and stripping the fly all the way back to the boat translated into a lot of casting...a lot. We were very thankful for the light swing weight of TFO’s Axiom rod series.
Throwing a 9 weight for 10 hours can be tough. The Axiom 9 weights could be cast all day with no issue.
Pike fishing is a numbers game, with a “moved” fish almost as exciting as a landed fish (almost) in 2 days of fishing two boats, each with 2 anglers moved close to 60 fish landing 17. Size ranged from a few hammer handles to a 36 inch tank. Not quite the fish of 10,000 casts like their bigger cousin the Musky, but not like shooting fish in barrel ether. Wile they are aggressive and once they commit they are all in, they certainly are not stupid. Good accurate casts and a varied, erratic retrieve were a must. I can’t tell you haw many times Josh would say “put some pauses in there” I am glad he did because when that fly stopped and kicked sideways…
Till next time,
Tight Lines – Tim
Every year during the change of the seasons several things happen. Snow melts, Daffodils bloom, trees leaf and the Dogwoods bloom. It seems the blooming of the Dogwoods symbolize many things in the outdoors. Any central Pennsylvania Trout worth his salt will tell you that is the time for the Grannom Caddis. Well, if you are from my area in Northern Delaware the Dogwood bloom means one thing…Shad!
Shad are a member of the Herring family and every year around the third week in April they descend on our tributaries in droves. Fresh from the ocean and looking to spawn they are strong, feisty and tailor made to be taken on the fly. The “run” can vary in length (time) and intensity. During strong runs several fish per hour is the norm and a triple digit count on a morning or evening outing is an attainable goal. Yes, it is fair to say I do love the Shad run.
Shad fishing is actually pretty simple, a five, six or seven, weight rod, a intermediate or type II sink tip line and a small selection of flies will cover it. We will cast across river, almost at a 90 deg angle, let the fly sink and they twitch it as the current swings the rig down river, below where we are standing. If you choose you can let the fly dangle downstream, if you can wait long enough a fish will come up and take it, I will usually pick it up and re-cast. Flies are fairly simple, anything bright and flashy will do, I do have several of my own designs specifically for Shad, honestly a chartreuse bigger or the venerable ole’ Mickey Finn would fill the bill just fine.
Note, to see me tie a few of these patterns visit our new YouTube page by clicking HERE feel free to click subscribe when you are there.
For this outing we were fishing some new TFO gear. I had my TFO A2X 9 foot 5 weight. I have been using this rod to throw streamers to Trout on some local rivers, this shad run was the specific reason I got this set up. I was throwing an intermediate shooting head with a short (1.5 foot) T8 sink tip. Tyler was fishing the Drift rod set up as a Micro Spey. Two handed casting with a 2, 3, or four weight Micro Spey set up is fantastic fun on the Shad river.
We were into fish form basically the first cast, I don’t know how many we landed, we estimated about 150 between the 2 of us. It was a fantastic day on the water.
The Shad run is something special that happens each year. Some better than others, some are epic. One thing is for sure, these fish are a ton of fun!
If you would like to learn more about this great fishery book my "Shad Fishing 101" presentation for your club or private group. It is full o tons of information to chase these strong, hard fighting fish. Till next time...
Tight Lines , Tim
For anyone that knows me they know I absolutely love the Trout Nymphing game. I love tying the flies, love watching the sighter in a tight line rig, love watching the indicator on a indy rig, I lust plain love nymphing! Over the years my Trout game has revolved around the nymph, it still does and that will probably never change. That being said, every once in a while I get a hankering to throw streamers for Trout. It is not that I am against it, I actually quite enjoy throwing streamers, I always seem to gravitate to the nymph when talking about Trout.
We had quite a bit of rain through the week and all of our rivers were running high. my good friend and Norvise ambassador Ed "One Boot" Hays sent me a text on Friday afternoon, you all know the text, the kind that two fishing buddies send to each other. Few words, but the message is loud and clear ""Killing it on the FF section" That was it, but that was enough, I knew exactly where he was and I knew I would be throwing streamers on Sunday morning.
The Axiom II X;
When I first cast the Axiom II X at the Virginia Fly Fishing and Wine festival back in January Nick Conklin of TFO told me I was going to like it. He was right, When I first cast Tyler's A2X 8 weight in October I said "I see a LOT of iridescent blue in my future. When I saw that TFO was offering this rod in a 5 weight with a fighting butt I know this was going to be my first purchase. Originally, this was to be my new Hickory Shad set up. Paired with a BVK sealed drag reel and a Outbound Short F / I line this was going to be some bad mojo for Shad this spring. Well, COVID-19 took care of our Shad season and I was itching to get this set up out on the water. Sunday was my day.
I went to my tried and true streamer set up. as mentioned I already had a Outbound Short intermediate line on there, to that I looped to looped a 1.5' piece of T11, a 3' piece of 3X and my all time favorite streamer, Kelly Gallops Zoo Cougar.
When we first hit the water I was surprised at how easy the Axiom 2 X could handle the weight of the rig. Not that this was a ton of weight, it just didn't feel like I was throwing a sink tip at all, it barley feat like I was throwing an intermediate line. As mentioned Ed was with me, he too was throwing the A2X five weight.
Now, I would much prefer to fish over wild fish. Today scheduling and family commitments would prevent us from making the day trip to our favorite wild fish river, we would have to stay closer to home and beat up on some stockers. Now to be clear I said I would "prefer" to fish over wild fish, I have no problem catching stocked fish. "They have fins" as the boys down south always say, I agree, so we were on the water early Sunday morning rigged and ready to go.
It didn't take long, we had fished down about 100 yards of river and I saw Ed come tight to a fat Rainbow. The formula was simple, pound the cut banks from the far side, strip, strip, pause. Let the rig do its thing and settle the fly down in the slot. Strip, strip, pause, repeat. Take a few steps down, bomb the far cut bank, strip, strip, pause, repeat. Every once in a while, on the pause BANG! I love the violence of a streamer take.
We had been fishing for a while, not setting the world on fire, but catching a few fish. I was as interested in working the rod as well as catching fish. I was impressed with the accuracy I could obtain with the weighted head, I was really impressed with how well the rod could handle a inverted loop cast, a cast you must have in your bag of tricks if you are going to wade and streamer fish. I had a few of the Bugger type flies pictured above sent to me by mu buddy Tony Muncy of Muncy designs. These things looked cool and I wanted to see how they looked in the water. Three casts in I was hooked to a solid rainbow. Ed took this picture just as I netted the fish.
These leech type buggers worked very well, so much so that I contacted Tony today and placed an order for 3 dozen, Then I bought every color of dubbing he uses to make the body of these that the company makes. Yup, they looked that good!
All in all it was a great morning on the water, we got into some fish, I got to try out a new rig that I am VERY happy with (Ed loves his as well) and we had a good time. In the end, isn't that what it is all about?
Till next time.
Tyler and I had the pleasure of fishing with central Pennsylvania's premier Smallmouth guides, Brian Shumaker. Brian is the owner of Susquehanna River Guides and has spent the past 30 years floating the rivers in and around west central PA including the fabled Susquehanna and Juniata rivers. Brian has become a good friend over the years so we jumped at the chance to spend a day on the water with him.
We did the 2 hour ride from our place to the meeting spot in record time where we then followed Brian with his Hyde drift boat in tow to the um, well, we will say...boat ramp. We were on a smaller piece of water Brain can only float in his hard hull during the Spring. later in the year there is simply not enough water to get down this particular river. Getting the boat in the water was interesting, but we got it down the bank and we were soon on our way.
Smallmouth are my favorite fish, they are beautiful, hard fighting and are tailor made for fly fishing. We spent the day pounding the banks and back eddies with streamers and slowly stripping them back. "Stripping them back" is really a bit of a misnomer, really we were just letting the flies hang and swing a bit and just keeping the line tight as the boat drifted down river. This is a cool technique as once you "get" it you can literally hold the fly in one spot for an extended amount of time to entice a big ole' bronze back to come up from the deeper water and smash it.
We started off a little slow, typical with spring time smallmouth fishing as the water was still a bit on the cool side at 52 degrees. When the sun got up and the water warmed so did the fishing. As soon as he stepped up on to the front casting position Brian was tight to a solid smallmouth. Literally it was on his first or 2nd cast!
nThis was not a guided trip, it was what we call a "row and go" meaning three guys are in the boat, 2 guys fishing and 1 rowing the boat. We would switch positions so every got to fish and every one would row. If rowing a drift boat is not something you do every day you will soon appreciate the skill of an accomplished oarsman. It is not as easy as a good rower makes it look...just ask Tyler. I really think you should spend some time on the oars if you can, it will give you a better appreciation of how everyone needs to work together for the boat to be successful. Tyler was picking it up toward the end, I am very excited for our Smith Fly raft to be completed so we can start floating some of our local (and not so local) rivers this summer.
On his second stint on the bow Tyler stuck a good fish followed by an even better smallie.
Tyler and I were fishing some of TFO's new gear, mainly the Axiom 2 X rods and the new BVK sealed drag reels. As mentioned smallmouth are my favorite fish to fish for, coincidentally we spend a lot of time chasing them each year. For years my go to set up has always been a 7 weight. We throw some pretty big flies when chasing smallies; Game changers, O'Neill's Controlled Chaos, O'Neill's Hovercraft, weighted crayfish patterns and the like. For me a 6 weight just doesn't have the muscle needed to punch these bigger, wind resistant flies through the air. It is not uncommon for us to be on the water all day and honestly an 8 weight was just too heavy to cast for 10 hours straight, that is why I prefer a 7 weight. Until now.
During one of my turns in the back of the boat I looked down in the rod holder and low and behold there was Tyler's Brand new A2X 8 weight. Will, I am not one to let a new rod to go to waste so I figured I would break it in for him. As mentioned earlier I am a huge fan of a 7 weight. That being said, if you get a little more than I light breeze the shortcoming of the 7 weight quickly comes to light, especially if you are trying to punch 60' casts with big flies. This was the first time I really got to spend with the A2X 8 weight. The first thing you notice is the overall weight of the rod. If you didn't know any better you would swear it you were holding a 6 weight. Load it up to cast and it is quite apparent what you are holding. Paired with an aggressive, weight forward shooting head this stick is an absolute rocket. It is light in the hand, you can cast it all day and it has plenty of punch to drive a big, articulated fly through the air with ease. It is a bit early to say it is my new favorite, but it will be a staple in my quiver for sure.
Several hours later and sever rotations on the oars we were at the take out. We had had a fantastic day with several Smallmouth landed along with a bonus Walleye, my first ever.
If you are looking for a fantastic central Pennsylvania Smallmouth experience Give my buddy Brian a call or check out his Facebook HERE. You will be glad you did. Till next time...
Tight lines, Tim
As many of you know Norvise ambassador Braden Miller was recently featured in a 5 page article in "Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Journal. It was a fantastically written article authored by Len Waldron. For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Braden he is one of the most respectful, well mannered 14 year old's you will ever meet. Mature beyond his years, yet humble at the same time, Braden is the real deal when it comes to the fly fishing industry. I remember vividly as we were setting the booth up for the Atlanta "Fly Fishing Show" and my phone sounded. I looked at the incoming E mail and it took me a minute to realize what I was looking at...Braden was on the cover! (cover photo by our friend John McMinn) What a great moment that was for Braden, his family and for Norvise. Braden, his parents Will and Casey, brothers Blake, Brantley and Bennett have become family to us and we could not be more proud of his accomplishments.
To check out more of his work or to purchase some flies click HERE to visit his web site Miller Time Flies. He is also a great follow on Facebook and Instagram
Pretty cool huh? Till next time...
Tight Lines... Tim
We recently had the honor of being written up in Fish Alaska Magazine. Norvise and Fish Alaska have a long relationship that goes way back. George, the editor and author of the article and Norm were friends. Maybe that is why the article has a personal feel to it. Thank you George for writing the article and than you Fish Alaska for being such a great partner.
A great little story by Norvise ambassador Kevin Griffin. Giving what is going in the world right now, I thought is was fitting to post this one today. (I have had this post for a little over a year) Thank you Kevin for sharing this with us. Quite fitting I think.
Some of my fondest memories as a kid were fishing trips I went on with my Papa. Those trips taught me about nature, the environment, and the love between a grandfather and son. Now, 40 years later, I get the pleasure of experiencing this with my son. The river has always been my sanctuary, my refuge, a place I go to in order to wash away the stress life puts on us. I didn't realize how true this was until recently finding out my wife of 11 years was cheating on me and going through a divorce. God is good though and found me a new home on the river because he knew how therapeutic it is to me. Simply sitting on the porch and listening to the rushing water seems to drown away all of life's troubles. I've been worried about my little boy and how he is adjusting to having two homes now and his parents apart. I had him this past weekend and was able to take him fishing in the river I live on and experience the sheer joy of him catching his first trout. The smile on his face says it all! Saturday we made a memory that will live on in him for a lifetime and the river allowed that to happen. Thank you God for all the blessings you have given us, for our precious children, and for the beautiful trout streams we are able to fish. Please help us be mindful and protect our streams so our children's children will be able to enjoy them as we do.
A great story with a strong message. Till next time,
By Norvise ambassador Brian Davenport
Congratulations on your new purchase. Hopefully you also bought a Norvise Automatic Bobbin as well. If you haven’t- you should go do that right now! The two go together like peanut butter and jelly. The only way to get the full potential of the Norvise system is to have both the Norvise and the Norvise Automatic Bobbin
There is a bit of a learning curve with the Norvise, but there are some things you can do to shorten the curve tremendously!
First things first, start by watching the video that came with your Norvise to see how the system works. If your brand new to fly tying this will be a great help and you will learn a lot. If you’re a seasoned tier, this will show you how to use the system, and how it differs from your prior setup.
(to see the video Brian is talking about click HERE)
After watching the video, I sat down behind my Norvise and got to work.
Now a Norvise Automatic Bobbin is a special tool that you will learn to love! In the video, Norm demonstrates how to wrap the thread around the leg of the bobbin, to provide adequate tension.
Here is a little trick to help with that. Once you have the thread through the tube on the bobbin, attach it to the thread post across from your vise. Do this by placing a few wraps of thread around the button. At this point, your bobbin will be hanging from the button on the thread post. Make sure the bobbin is oriented with the thread coming off the bobbin towards you. With your thumb, push the thread through the legs of the bobbin, and catch it with your finger on the back side. Bring it down, around the spool. Do this twice and then the tension is set. This helps so that you don’t accidentally pull the thread back out of the bobbin-- and once you’re done it is already secured to the post.
During the learning curve, this will be something you do quite a bit of! Part of the learning curve is to make sure when you cut your thread, to use your hand to put tension on the bobbin hub, so that it doesn’t zip the thread back through. It will happen-so just prepare for it! After a few times of having to rethread your bobbin, you’ll get the muscle memory down to do it and then you will do it without even thinking about it.
One of the things I missed when watching the video, is which way you spin the vise. It seems pretty straight forward, but I had a few issues with my flies until I watched the video a second time. If you watch carefully, Norm spins the vise towards him, rather than away from him. When I really thought about how I used my old vise and wrapped the thread on the hook, it makes sense. You need to turn the vice toward you so that it will wrap the thread away from you like on your old vise. Small detail, but easy to miss. And can make your first few interactions on your new vise frustrating if you don’t get it right.
Learn to tie a half hitch. The half hitch is your best friend when using the Norvise system. If you break your thread, it will save your fly from completely unraveling. It will also help when you use the vise for other techniques such as dubbing.
Also, when you go to move the bobbin off the thread post, be sure to keep enough tension on the thread, so that your material doesn’t unravel.
One final thing— materials go on the hook very easy with the Norvise—sometimes too easy! So it is very easy to crowd the hook eye. If you start your thread in the spot where you want your materials to end
Brian gives some sound advise in this article about the vise and the bobbin. Hopefully this will shorten the learning curve with your new Norvise. Till next time...